My first, and all-time favorite, teddy bear was a tiny, six inch tall, stuffed panda bear. It was the kind that my mother was not allowed to wash, so my last memories of it were a dirty white and black toy that had almost all the plush worn off.
I lost it under the motel bed where it had fallen on a family vacation when I was in elementary school – never to be seen again.
The next teddy bear I remember was in high school in Richardson, Texas. The Texas State Fair is held in Dallas and the schools gave us a day off to go to the fair. My girlfriend, Judy, and I went together one year and I won a huge, white stuffed bear that she had dearly wanted to win. When I told my Mom, she proposed a compromise. “Give your friend the bear on her birthday, with the condition that you will share the bear, exchanging it on holidays. And, so we did, throughout high school.
Then there was the 2-foot brown bear I made for my older son when he was a toddler.My Mom had insisted, against my Dad’s wishes, on giving me a sewing machine in high school. Dad’s position was that we had a sewing machine at home I could use. Mom reminded him that I was 16 and would be leaving home in a couple of years. I won second-place in a university-wide sewing contest my Freshman year at Michigan State University, and went on to make my own clothes and the teddy bear for my son. This bear is memorialized in a commercial studio photo of my younger son, who insisted he would not wear a tie, but let me put it on the bear. Its felt nose, by then, was nearly completely worn through.
The teddy bears entered my life faster with my second son. I still have the bear that had a recording mechanism inside so that he could record anything he wanted and play it back at will. We had to take it out the first night he slept with it, though. He would murmur in his sleep, the bear would record it and when he turned over the bear played it back, waking him up all night. I still have the sturdy bear, its back stitched in place where the recorder used to be.
Then, there was the Paddington bear my husband brought back from London, where he’d been able to visit Paddington Station. The bear’s iconic folded back yellow hat and blue slicker were in felt and its red boots were rubber. We quickly found the story books about Paddington’s adventures.
I did not realize how many bears I’d accumulated until my grandson remarked in surprise on one visit, “Grandma, you’ve got a teddy bear in every room!”
Yes, there is the 3-foot white bear that was to be a mascot for a business that barely got off the ground, that would have been called, “Osita,” for little bear. A few years later that bear accompanied me to an ovarian cancer conference, where I sold books. The bear now wears a teal (the color for ovarian cancer) t-shirt bearing the sentiment, “Fight Like a Girl.”
There was even a bear in my bathroom, a stuffed bear that had been dipped, whole, into wax to make a candle. Of course, I have never lit the candle.
There were the two teddy bears I bought when I went with my aunt Bea, a World War II veteran, to the opening of the women’s World War II memorial. The bears wear t-shirts that say, “My Aunt Wore Combat Boots.” By now, I was buying bears two at a time because I had two grandchildren. Yet, I kept the bears at my house, where my granddaughter and I served them all tea one year.
There were the two tiny bears, swag from a pharmaceutical manufacturer I interviewed as a possible vendor for a fledgling cancer research company.
There were the three bears I commissioned t-shirts for in an effort to explore the idea of asking parents to put a stuffed bear in the front seat when they had a child in the back, to remind them to take the child out when they left the car, after several nearby incidents of children dying of heat stroke. The t-shirts show a toddler in a car seat with the admonition, “Remember Me.”
My most recent bear, was a small pink Tiddy Bear™, sitting high in a pink basket at my bedside when I got out of surgery, thanks to the IIIB’s Foundation, a creation of breast cancer survivors. It has a strap on its back to hold it onto a seat belt to lift the belt off my chest after mastectomy surgery.
Thank you, guardian angel bear.