This post really should have a picture, but doesn't.
When Zander was a baby we lived in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, and I'd take him in his carseat basket into Oak Park Camera on Lake Street, which in those days was an independent shop owned by Gene Fara. When Gene died his son Lance took over, and as Zander grew he became very familiar with the camera store—he loved to race around behind the counters and shoot rubberbands at his buddy Brian.
One week an awkwardly large four-foot teddy bear appeared at the store. Zander was entranced, but as much as he begged, he couldn't have it, because I couldn't buy it—it was a raffle prize. We put our ticket in, though, and lo and behold, Zander won! How that happened is anybody's guess—and anybody isn't telling. Shhh.
Zander loved his bear from Chicago, which, with logic if not originality, he named "Bear." Bear was too large to sleep with, but a place was found for him where he could stretch out and relax. Then, when they were both about the same height, came the high point of Bear's life—day after day, Zander and Bear would have epic boxing matches together, with Daddy animating Bear from behind. Zander loved it. Bear was tough but Zander was the man for the fight. (To give his limbs weight, Bear had sandbags in his paws, so he could pack a punch. Once, Zander fought furiously, stopped, dropped his hands, gave a big sigh, thought about it for a couple of beats, and broke into tears. Bear went a little easier the next time.)
Zander continued to grow, of course, and Bear's last childhood duty was to be wedged in between his bed and the wall so eight-year-old Zander wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night trapped in that narrow space himself.
Eventually Bear's head began to come off and his stuffing started to come out. So our friends Sally Schley, her daughter Gina Jozef, and Sally's mother Imy (a.k.a. "Grimmy," for Grandma Imy) Schley came to the rescue—they made a restoration project of Bear. They removed his stuffing, washed him, restuffed him, and sewed him up. We donated Bear to the Schley family cabin, where he lived for a couple of years.
But Bear is large, and eventually Grimmy gently suggested he should go home again.
When you move, one of the big headaches is figuring out where things should go. Some things you have to throw away even though you know someone somewhere would want them. I apologize , for instance, to collectors of Olympus OM Zuiko lenses for throwing out a number of pristine empty lens boxes, several for the rarest of the lenses—but getting them into the right hands was more than I had time for. I've donated 30 boxes of books to a local bookshop and café; filled a dumpster; and made numerous trips to Goodwill. Goodwill is particularly useful because if you can't bring yourself to throw something worthless away, they'll do it for you.
Unfortunately, Goodwill won't take stuffed animals because they can harbor germs. At least, the ones that have not recently been laundered.
What to do? Things looked grim for Bear. Had he reached the end of life and love? He was in splendid shape, soft, gleaming and clean. And teddy bears his size can cost anywhere from $60 to $200. It seemed a shame to throw him in the trash like he was junk after his long life of silent service. I racked my brain, but I couldn't think of any friends nearby with small children.
In an effort to save Bear from his ignominious fate, I loaded him in the car and drove to a older neighborhood in downtown Waukesha...and just drove around, looking. Finally I spied a little red-headed girl about three years old riding a bike on the sidewalk, with several adults watching her from a porch.
I approached the porch, and after a bit of initial awkwardness, explained my mission. The little girl's father came out and introduced himself, and we shook hands, and, once the parents were persuaded that I hadn't lost a bit of stuffing myself, the proceedings warmed up considerably, and the little girl took possession of good old Bear, who, it turns out, is a foot taller than she—while her father told me that she has a special fondness for stuffed animals and a room full of them. She said "thank you" very politely and did seem very pleased. After farewells and God-bless-you's all around, off I went.
You can't find a good home for everything you have to get rid of when you move. But maybe I've made a successful adoption placement for Bear. I hope they have enough room—he is, after all, awkwardly large.
"Morning Coffee" is auto-published weekdays at 3:30 a.m. Central Time to be in time for morning coffee breaks in the UK and Europe.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Nige: "Nice story, good to hear Bear ended up with a new career. Here's a roughly thrown together couple of pics of my son and his boxing gorilla. I used to operate the gorilla, who I think was called Monkey, just like you did the bear. My son has grown substantially in the intervening 15 years."
Mike replies: He still has the same smile though.
FK: "This post has nice warm fuzzy feeling."
Mark: "Good for you Mike, I would not have been able to part with so significant a memento. At our house Bear would have wound up hanging out in a corner somewhere waiting for the possibly someday grandchild to take over the 'Care of Bear' duties. Hopefully Bear has many more years of hugs left in him with his new little girl."
adamct: "One day I was at Costco buying groceries when I saw one of those giant bears you're describing. My twin daughters were about four years old at the time, and somehow I felt like I just had to buy it for them. I took it home and set it up in our large, long living room so the bear was 'sitting' upright in the free space in the middle of the room. Then I called my daughters.
"One of my daughters is a fearless, wild free spirit. She took one look at the bear and her face lit up. She ran at it full-tilt, tackled the bear, knocked it over, and hugged it in a death grip. My other daughter is much more cautious, but not wanting to be left out, she insisted that I set up the bear again, so that she, too, could tackle it. I obliged. She gathered herself, then started running at full speed. About a foot or two from the bear, she suddenly slammed on the brakes, turned around and sidled back to me. She motioned for me to bend down, then whispered in my ear, 'Daddy, is there a man in there?' I love that story because it perfectly captures my daughters' different characters. (Of course, once I reassured her, my second daughter promptly clothes-lined the bear as well.)
"The first daughter mentioned above still snuggles up in the bear's 'lap' whenever she is looking for comfort (usually after being scolded for acting up)."