Mr. Bear

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Special toys have special meaning to children. Teddy bears are one of the most historically revered toy. This story relates the importance of a Teddy bear in the life of one small child, and how it came to dominate the family. Told with humor and a lesson to be learned, "Mr. Bear" starts with its owner's infancy and follows her and her family for the next few years.

Submitted: November 26, 2016

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Submitted: November 26, 2016

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"Oh, thank you,” I said, taking the wrapped gift from my girlfriend, Laura. 

It was one more of a bunch given to me by friends following the birth of my first child, Natalie. 

“I’ll unwrap it in her behalf.”

Laura and I laughed at my little joke as I untied the big pink bow, lifted the cover of the box, and pushed back the tissue paper. There lay the stereotypical baby gift, a Teddy bear. It looked like every other Teddy bear: fluffy brown material, button eyes, an embroidered nose.

I put it in the crib, the one my husband Greg had so lovingly assembled a few months earlier, where my infant daughter was lying in her comfy, footsie pajamas. It was an abrupt contrast to her soft, blond hair and pale skin. Big blue eyes stared at the intruder as Natalie brushed against it with her arm, too young to actually grab it. 

“I guess it needs a name,” I mentioned to Greg, later that night after he arrived home from work.

We threw ideas around a bit, but nothing seemed right. We let it drop, both distracted by routine chores. Later, Greg suggested offhandedly while ruffling though the mail, “How about Mr. Bear?”

“Well, not very original, but I guess it’s about as good as any.  Okay, Mr. Bear it is.”

Natalie had Mr. Bear in her bed from that time on. As she was able to reach and grasp for things, Mr. Bear was frequently in her fist, her arms, lying over her chest and metaphorically joined to her hip.

As she crawled and then walked, Mr. Bear came right along with her. Trips in the car were accompanied by tantrums if Mr. Bear somehow got left at home. I quickly learned to look for the whereabouts of Mr. Bear before anything else. He was in total control of the mood in our house. If he chose to hide himself, chaos reigned. Picture a screaming child and two distraught parents frantically searching for a stuffed toy in every closet, drawer, crack, or crevice that could possibly conceal its flexible body.

I would often observe Natalie staring hard at Mr. Bear before pushing her face into his, feeling his softness, smelling him, finding comfort in his touch. His nose, originally protruding, became flat and pug-like.

When Natalie was teething, her drool found its way onto random parts of Mr. Bear, rendering him stiff and pungent. Occasionally, when he became too disgusting, I would steal him from her crib when she was sleeping and put him through the washer and dryer. I had to be quick about it so he could return to his assigned station and be there when Natalie awoke. However, I could see the confused look in her eyes. He just didn’t smell the same. She didn’t complain because it was Mr. Bear, after all, even though something was wrong. Over the next few days, she just drooled on him some more and sure enough, he bounced right back to the old Mr. Bear she knew and loved.

A year later, Natalie was a toddler, dragging Mr. Bear with her as she stumbled along. Mr. Bear looked a bit different now. After all the wear and tear and washings and dryings he had endured, he’d started fraying at the seams. Knowing what a vital member of our household he was, I came up with a solution.

I can patch him up easily, I figured.

I rummaged through some old clothes I retrieved from a box in the garage and came upon a worn pair of Greg’s trousers, brown in color and the same tone as Mr. Bear himself. I cut a few strips from the pants and armed myself with a needle and thread.  Pinning and stitching, I successfully patched the torn area. 

The final test would come when Natalie got up from her nap. She grabbed Mr. Bear and just wandered off, not even noticing the patch. Eureka, life would be stable in our family! Naturally, I put the old trousers into the drawer where I guarded my most prized possessions, way in the back, so I could find them the next time I needed them. 

One day, we all went to the bank for a routine financial transaction. As my husband dealt with the teller, I followed Natalie and Mr. Bear as they made their way around the interior, exploring all the fascinating things banks have to offer. After our business was completed, we left and drove to a restaurant for dinner.

As we all began to exit the car, Natalie started screaming.

Oh God, did she get her finger caught in something?

We checked everything we could, and she seemed fine, but her hysteria was rising. Then, it hit me. 

Where’s Mr. Bear?

He was nowhere to be found in the car. We must have left him in the bank. I called immediately, only to find that it was closed by then. It was Friday, and it wouldn’t be open again until Monday.

Natalie was inconsolable. We just abandoned the restaurant and drove home, accompanied by her screams.

She and we finally fell asleep after an exhausting night. Early the next morning, the screaming began anew. No other stuffed toy would do. No favorite food was distracting enough. Nothing was working!

“Let’s go to the bank and see if someone will let us in,” I told Greg.

We arrived at the bank a bedraggled bunch. The three of us were standing at the glass doors peering in. All the lights were out, and it looked pretty deserted. Greg started pounding on the door, and I began yelling to the limits of my lungs. Natalie looked at us amazed. We were as out of control as she was.

Almost instantly, a stereotypical big, burly-type security guard came into view. 

Oh, thank God, I thought. 

Uniformed and armed, he walked up to the door wearing a suspicious look.

“Please, we were in the bank yesterday and my daughter left her bear here.  Can we come in and look for him? It’s a matter of life and death,” I blabbered almost incoherently.

A grin spread over his face, followed by laughter. He began unlocking the door and waving us in. 

“Yeah, I’ve been there, done that,” he said softly. “Go ahead and look around.”

After about ten minutes I heard a war whoop.

“Here he is,” shouted Greg.

Mr. Bear was sleeping soundly on a shelf behind a desk. Some kind soul must have placed him there, figuring, I guess, that someone would eventually return for him.  Natalie snatched him from her father, did her usual face press to check him out, and tottered off, happy once again.

Mr. Bear lived with us for the next few years. His patches grew and grew until I had practically remade him.

One day, after he came out of the washing machine for the umpteenth time, I put him in the dryer as usual. About a half hour later, I went to the laundry room to retrieve him with Natalie following right behind me. I opened the dryer, but there was no Mr. Bear to be seen. 

That’s impossible.  I know I put him in here.  Wait, what’s that?

The dryer was filled with tiny pieces of some strange substance stuck everywhere to the inside drum, and there was an old rag lying on the bottom. I pulled it out. It was dingy brown with odd patches all over it the same color. 

Oh no, Mr. Bear!

Natalie was confused and upset. I showed her what was left of Mr. Bear and tried to explain it to her. When Daddy got home, we held a ceremony for Mr. Bear, putting his remains in a special drawer so Natalie could look at them whenever she wanted. Older now, she weathered the demise of her prized possession better than I thought she would. Of course, we all mourned Mr. Bear for a long time and discussed the matter in great detail each time she asked about him. 

I’ve thought about Mr. Bear a lot over the years. If I had realized the importance he would hold in our family, I would have bought a dozen to replace each one as it eventually deteriorated. On the other hand, it was my daughter’s first lesson in real loss and that nothing lasts forever. Somewhere along the way, it’s a lesson we all have to learn, and it’s always painful, even if it is just a toy bear.


© Copyright 2017 Lee Gale Gruen. All rights reserved.

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