When I was a child, I disliked dolls, and really didn’t want any. Their eyes seemed eerie, they were stiff and useless. When Grandma gave me one, it landed in the most obscure place in my bedroom, collecting dust. She never understood my aversion to one of her favorite things, but gradually learned that we were different.
Teddy bears got all of my affection. They were cute, not scary, and soft, They just made sense. At bedtime I routinely put them all under the covers, heads on the pillows. They were so abundant I had to lie on my side to accommodate them. I wasn’t an inconvenience at all, but once in awhile I did land flat on the floor alongside the bed.
My parents’ bedroom shared a common wall with mine, so even the slightest noise in the nighttime silence was overheard. Dad would slowly open my door to check on me. He decided, after a few of these mishaps, that the bears had to be relocated. I saw no reason to displace my teddy bears, and I protested adamantly. Out of love, but not a lot of understanding, Dad built them a crib, complete with their own fluffy blanket and cushy pillow. Only one bear was allowed to share my bed.
Stretch was very special. One eye had been pinned on, he was old and shaggy, and yes, he was in dire need of a bath after years of sleeping squished against my cheeks. Putting him down the clothes shoot with the laundry didn’t feel right. He’d likely spend a few days in the hamper, not knowing his fate, so we hung pretty close to each other. I think he knew he was my main bear.
When my ex-husband and I moved from Denver to San Francisco, Stretch accompanied us. Upon arrival, we found a motel room near the house of an acquaintance of Jim’s, and spent the night. In our haste the next morning, Stretch had gotten mixed up in the covers and we accidentally left him behind. We had been invited to stay for a few days by his friend, and as I was unpacking my suitcase that afternoon I didn’t see Stretch. I was totally beside myself. Jim and I went back to the motel and embarrassingly asked if he’d been found. No one acknowledged seeing him.
I was lost without my best friend. He’d made it all the way to California, and now he was gone. I felt abandoned and imagined Stretch face down in a dumpster, even more disheveled, and alone. My husband suggested we go to a toy store and buy a new Stretch. I couldn’t just buy a new Stretch!
This was a very agonizing shopping experience. I couldn’t imagine sleeping with a fresh out the box bear. He wouldn’t look the same, smell or feel the same. After scrutinizing every bear in the store I caved in and bought one that reminded me a bit of Winnie the Pooh. I wasn’t at all excited to take Stretch #2 home, nor could I envision sleeping with him. My husband was thrilled. He no longer had to share the bed with a raggedy, smelly, one eyed competitor.
After several weeks we found an apartment in San Francisco, and began our new life. Stretch #2 came with us, but he hadn’t found his way into my heart. I felt like a bad mom, and still missed my best friend. It was all silly on my part, I knew. It was time to grow up. I just wasn’t ready.
After a few months I decided to try sleeping with #2. He had no lumps from years of over-hugging, his eyes were well fixed and his little body was small and harder to cuddle.
It took several years before I really connected with #2, but he saw me through an eventual divorce, the loss of family members, and he accompanied me for nearly a year as I travelled to London, Vancouver, Hawaii, and other destinations. I even crocheted bottoms for him to wear on the snowy trips to Chicago, and bought him a warm knitted scarf in Kennebunkport, Maine. The clerk asked why I wanted to buy the scarf, without the teddy bear. I told her it was for my daughter’s bear. She looked at me with coyly suspicious eyes, and rightly so.
Stretch #2 is still with me, nearly 45 years later. He’s the most prominent of my tiny stuffed animal collection, the red scarf still drapes around his neck. He has that sweet mushy feeling that well hugged bears should have. Every now and then I prop him up against a pillow, and we reminisce about the old days, and all of our travels together.
It’s been a good friendship, where tangible love still exists.
“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
© Shari Adams
About the author shari2845