The teddy bear was sent to me when I was still a baby, more than 51 years ago. It was a gift from my great-grandmother, Granny Bryant, who lived in London. My memories of Granny and those early years are so faint I can’t trust they’re real, but I’m sure I hugged the bear, drooled on it, threw it around and gurgled at it. Probably also chewed it and used it as a pillow, if I know me.
My bear doesn’t have a real name. I just call him Bear, and that’s good enough for the both of us. He’s lost a little hair and the diaphragm in his chest doesn’t squeak anymore, but like me he still has all of his limbs, as well as his eyes, nose and mouth.
Bear may be a teddy bear, but he’s tougher than he looks, and durable.
One of the things I like most about Bear is that he isn’t overly happy. If you look closely, you’ll see that Bear is frowning. He’s skeptical, examines the world around him critically, and is prone to ruminating about how often things go wrong, and about how people don’t care for one another enough. He’s frequently grumpy.
But Bear’s a softy, too. He’s a little pudgy on account of loving food and drink too much. His hair is untamed and his sweater—which was knitted by my mom—is a little lumpy because he’s not a slave to fashion, and besides, grooming is a bothersome waste of time when there are so many other fun things to do. His open-armed posture says, “Hug me. You know you need one, and so do I.” His ears are perked up because he’s a good listener, and he leans forward in his chair because he doesn’t mind talking about himself, either. Bear enjoys people, as least the ones he calls friends. And he’s stayed around for so long because he doles out love sparingly, and is devoted to the ones he does love.
Oh, and he’s not wearing pants. I guess that proves that even though Bear’s a house bear, he’s still a little wild.
Bear likes his chair a lot. It’s wood, with a dark-brown finish that seems appropriately woodsy for a Bruin. The slatted, curved seat is well-worn, but the chair’s joints are as solid as the day it was purchased. It’s a rocker, and Bear often falls asleep in it while he’s reading ancient, epic poems about the creation of the world and its people. He dreams then, usually of sailing the seas in a battered Longship, hunting for adventure, beauty and, most of all, friendship and true love.
My mother gave me the chair when I was a little boy. I don’t remember sitting in it, and I can’t now because it’s too small or I’m too big, but I’ve kept it hanging on a post in the garage all these years because I can’t bear to part with it any more than I could bear to part with Bear.
If my memory is right, and it might not be, my mom bought the chair with S&H Green Stamps. Many merchants used to hand out S&H stamps every time you made a purchase at a department store, gas station or grocery store. People liked my mother saved them in books, which they could exchange at redemption centers for furniture, radios, even trips to places like Disneyland.
Mom bought me the chair when she probably could’ve bought herself something nice.
Mom’s like that, always thinking of others.
I keep Bear on a dresser in my bedroom. He’s been a good friend all these years, and I intend to see that he outlives me because I believe he might make a good companion for a grandchild someday. They could sit together in the rocker and talk, read books to one another and fall asleep in one another’s arms, as friends should do more often.
I think that would be wonderful.