Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – February 15, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – February 15, 2004 – The mystery, magic and wonder of a Teddy Bear. The world is a better place because of these captivating creatures. In fact, the Teddy has become an icon – he represents friendship, joy, security, companionship and love.
He is an endlessly good listener, a solace in times of trouble, the most discreet confidante, a charming addition to any room, a trusted advisor and quite possibly, the reason why many children reach adulthood as relatively well-adjusted individuals.
How Can You Not Fall In Love With A Teddy – When A Real Bear Can Steal Your Heart?
One of my most valued possessions is my mother’s Teddy Bear. Nothing fancy for him, she simply called him Teddy. I think he must have been one of the most loved bears ever. Mary, my Mother, was born in 1907 and she got her bear when she was 3 years old. Teddy is 94 years old now and has undergone many changes during his life. He is a small jointed bear, standing about eight inches tall, with the typical hump between his shoulders.
He only has one eye and his fur is mostly threadbare. You can see at his joints that he was once a soft yellow-gold colour. Both his feet have holes worn through the soles and his straw stuffing is visible inside. His tummy has been stitched up at some time during his long life and he has crisscross stitching over his heart.
My Mother was born into what should have been a prosperous and happy home. Her Father was a doctor and her Mother a nurse. Unfortunately her Mother, my Grandmother Harriet, died of septicaemia when Mary was only three days old. Her Father, James was a hard man and he had no use for ‘girl’ children. With his wife gone, he gave Mary to Harriet’s sister Delia to raise. Mary didn’t see her father until she was sixteen years old, at which time he told her that he would have wanted her had she been a boy.
To say that Delia and Mary were poor is an understatement. Delia was a home nurse, and was frequently not paid for her work in money. She often received vegetables, honey, fish and old clothes, in return for her nursing skills. So the gift of Teddy to Mary was a rare treat. He was one of her few toys. The two of them – Mary and Teddy were inseparable.
When I was a child, I recall Mom telling me how she used to climb up a big apple tree with him in the summer time and sit there telling him all her secrets. She said that Teddy fell out of that tree many times, but when she retrieved him and climbed back up into the branches, his good humour was always intact.
Mary and Delia were once given train tickets by a friend of the family for a trip between Toronto and Vancouver. It was not a holiday Delia could ever have afforded if not for the generosity of others. They were waiting on the platform at Union Station to board the train. Mary was about five years old and had her ever-present Teddy clutched in her hands. When the train came into the station, the platform conductors made everyone step back from the tracks. Once the train was stationary, steps were put up beside the doors and the conductors started to help the passengers on board.
Mom was holding her hat and her little suitcase and in her excitement to get on the train, she inadvertently dropped Teddy. He fell down underneath the train. Mary and Delia had berths on the train and one of the conductors helped them get settled. Mary soon realized that her precious Teddy was gone and she started to cry. Delia tried to calm her down, but her efforts went unheeded. Mary thought her heart would shatter if she had to leave without Teddy.
My Mother was a five year old on a mission. She put up such a ferocious ruckus that the Toronto – Vancouver train was held up for fifteen minutes while Teddy was found. The conductor who was a wonderful, warm black man, took my mother by the hand and together they found Teddy. Mary, who grew up in small town Ontario, had never seen a man of colour before and I remember her telling me about him with such reverence.
She said he had such warm brown skin, his hand was big and strong and he had the kindest smile. All those years later as she sat holding Teddy, she had tears in her eyes as she recounted the story and remembered the kindness of Will the conductor. In the years since my Mother’s death, Teddy has never given up any of her secrets. He passes his days, sitting patiently on a shelf in my living room. I’m sure he still misses my Mother – theirs was a truly special and spiritual relationship.
There is something quite remarkable about picking out a Teddy Bear. There can be dozens of identical bears on a shelf. Yet only one looks at you in that magical way and silently tells you to pick him. It may be the sparkle in his eye or the slightly askew grin on his face, but a bond forms almost immediately with a bear. I have a teddy named Hindlebaines who I found in a store in Waterloo during my first week at university. He was with me during my college years, and listened to all my tales of glory and heartbreak.
Like my Mother’s Teddy, he has never surrendered my secrets. He lives in my third floor bedroom with more than a dozen other bears who have found their way into to my heart and home over the years. Among them are Blueberry (affectionately known as BeeBee), Henry, Migvie Kirk, Nrb, Victor, Joe Forty, Annabelle, Rupert, Gary Glengarry, Walter, Eugene, Ernest, Uncle Otto, Biscuit, Thugs, Butterball, Mouffetard, Tweed and Cord.
If you’re ever looking for a way to open up your heart or gladden the life of another, give them a Teddy bear. Or better yet take them out for an afternoon and let them pick out their own bear. Something exceptional happens in the Universe when you pick up a bear and hug it to your heart. You become a better person. You can fight this and deny that it is so, but you may as well yield to this furry, little magician. Given enough time a Teddy Bear will melt even the hardest heart.