I remember it well. It was a long time ago, yet it’s one of those life altering moments a person never forgets. I was only a child, around 8 or 9 years old, when my world came crashing down around me. I could no longer keep my emotions buried deep down inside of me. I sat there motionless in my father’s La-Z-Boy Rocker Recliner, stunned by what had transpired over the past few weeks, as tears cascaded down my cheeks. I made no effort to conceal my tears as I gazed down the hallway at my mother who was conversing on our one and only rotary dial telephone. In fact, I was hoping my immense sorrow would not go unnoticed, so I could finally release some of the burden I’d secretly been carrying around with me ever since I made that awful decision…to give my teddy bear away.
I made the hasty decision to part ways with my stuffed animal soon after attending a Cub Scout meeting. (I was a Cub Scout for an entire two years during my youth.) My Pack leader announced we’d be taking part in a local toy drive. The Christmas season was fast approaching, and he thought collecting new and slightly used toys, for those less fortunate in our community, was the least we could do as a civic minded organization. My ears perked up when the gangly Cubmaster mentioned there’d be prizes awarded, to the top three toy collectors, on the evening of the upcoming annual pinewood derby competition. I don’t remember much more about the meeting after hearing the word prizes, but I do recall thinking what a glorious night that will be: taking first place in the pinewood derby and receiving one of three prizes just for gathering some toys.
When I got home I immediately ransacked my overflowing toy box and found a few items I could donate to help my…ahem…I mean…to help the…worthy cause. The next day I scoured the neighborhood (probably only three or four houses) for contributions. One weekend a few of us even went out with our Pack leader in hopes of finding more donations. The contest’s end was nearing, and I felt pretty good about the number of toys I had garnered, but was it enough? I rummaged through my toy box one last time, but I didn’t find anything. At least nothing else I could bear to part with or what would be acceptable as “slightly used.”
And then it happened. I spotted my blue and white teddy bear, in his usual spot, on top of my bed. I hadn’t even considered parting company with any of the assorted inanimate creatures arranged next to my pillow. But what a greedy little guy I was. All I kept thinking about were those darn prizes. It’s not even as if they were all that spectacular to begin with. I think the grand prize was maybe ten dollars. A nice sum at the time, for a young lad, but certainly not worth the guilt I’d soon be facing.
I began to rationalize how giving away my teddy wasn’t a big deal. Wasn’t I too old for such a thing anyway? I hadn’t even given my stuffed bear a name for Pete’s sake. What kind of an owner doesn’t give their teddy bear a name? Surely he’d be better off with someone else. Rationalization completed.
My mother noticed I had added my teddy bear to the modest pile of accumulated toys situated in the corner of my bedroom. She mildly suggested that I reconsider my decision to give away my teddy. A day or so later, seeing my stuffed animal still occupying the corner, my mother strongly recommended I heed her advice. She then made one last plea for me to reconsider my stance, as I was heading off to the big event, but my infantile mind had already been made up. My excitement that evening quickly waned as the names of the three prize winners were announced, and the realization of what just happened set in. I lost the pinewood derby, the toy drive contest, and my precious teddy bear in one fell swoop.
A few days passed, and I quickly got over not being victorious in the pinewood derby and toy drive competitions. I truly hadn’t given my teddy bear much thought with the hustle and bustle of the season’s festivities and with Christmas just around the corner. However, after the blessed 25th day of December had come and gone, and every child’s coveted winter break was coming to a close, I became fixated with the loss of my blue and white teddy bear. I could not believe what I had done. That’s why I couldn’t stop crying, and hoping my mother would notice my anguish, as I sat motionless in my father’s La-Z-Boy. (My father must not have been home at the time since I was sitting in his chair.)
At last, my mother’s eyes locked onto mine, and instantly I felt a sense of some much needed solace. I was relieved, although only for a moment, until my newfound comfort swiftly transformed into a state of trepidation. After all, it was my mother who earnestly tried to convince me not to give away my one and only teddy, so why should she be sympathetic to my self-induced predicament after I (now regretfully) ignored her previous sound advice? I guess I was about to find out since my mother had hung up the telephone and was headed in my direction. To my surprise, she was sympathetic…and how!
After comforting me for a while my mother came up with a brilliant idea. She couldn’t bring back my teddy bear, but she could do the next best thing. My mother is a fine artist, so she drew (from memory) a life-size, near perfect replica of my teddy onto a large sheet of drawing paper. She then brought the picture to life when filling in the bear’s outline with a couple of colored pencils – precisely matching the light blue on the piece of paper before us to that of the real thing now somewhere in the arms of some lucky kid.
Over the next few days my mother did the same for the remaining stuffed clan arranged on my bed…just in case. She fashioned the likenesses of my light green bunny, small raccoon pillow, and my Ronald McDonald collectible onto other sheets of drawing paper, so I could add them to the teddy bear masterpiece she had created for me. What a mother! Her act of kindness eased much of the hurt her little boy was experiencing.
It’s no coincidence that today is National Teddy Bear Day. I really don’t think we need a specific day of the year designated to honor our teddies, but what the hey. Later this month (Sept. 19th) is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I suppose, all things considered, a day established to celebrate our teddy bears isn’t so strange after all. I do think about my blue and white teddy sometimes, and I wish he was still with me. If you’re fortunate enough to still have yours…please hug your teddy bear today.