“What does he think I am? A baby?”
Deep embarrassment was making me peevish. I did not want my mother, grandmother – and, especially, the guests – to think I was still a little girl who liked teddy bears. After all, I was five. It was bad enough that I was already in my pyjamas and slippers, ready for bed, when everyone else was staying up – but rubbing it in with a teddy bear was insulting. Luckily, my mother’s boss – the man responsible for my social discrediting, this Christmas Eve – was not present, so I was able to ridicule him with as much haughty outrage as I felt. It was not the first time he had triggered my anger. When I heard he went hunting pheasants at weekends, I used my mother’s mechanical typewriter to write him a letter which began, “Dear Murderer” before spiralling into accusations and heartfelt wishes that he might be appropriately punished for his crimes against animals. I then gave the letter to my mother to take to him, never doubting that she would deliver it straight into his hands (even then, diplomacy was an alien concept to me). When, a few months later, I heard that he had injured his thumb whilst cleaning his hunting rifle, I cheered.
And now, that horrid man was giving me a teddy bear for Christmas. Not just that – but a cheap and nasty-looking one. My other teddy bear, which my mother had bought me the previous year, and which sat on an armchair, gathering dust, was made of wool and velvet, with articulated paws. I will never know why I did not play with him, but he was a quality bear. This one was stuffed with some kind of mediocre sponge, and was not even brown but some kind of non-descript pinkish-reddish-orangey, with white muzzle, tummy and feet. Dark brown bead eyes with large black pupils, an upside down, vaguely heart-shaped piece of red felt for a mouth, and a little black nose which was stuck off-centre. A cheap teddy bear with a wonky nose. Couldn’t my mother’s boss at least have spent a little more?
Of course, there would never be any question of my playing with such a low quality toy but I could not stop staring at the wonky nose. Defective. No one would ever play with him. He would just lie there, under the Christmas tree, on top of the scrunched up wrapping paper. Later, the lights would be switched off, and he would lie there, alone, in the dark, with his wonky nose. Suddenly, tears were streaming down my face. No one would ever love Teddy, and he would be thrown away.
I took wonky-nosed Teddy to bed with me, to comfort him. I told him it would only be for that night, because it was Christmas Eve.
I fell asleep, hugging Teddy, for many, many years to come.
He now lives among my woollen jumpers. He is still with me.
* With thanks to Rosy Cole for inspiring me to write this, with her story Elephant’s Footnote.
Don’t know what I love more, “Dear Murderer” or “He was a quality bear.” Too funny. And I’ve got to remember “wonky” that’s a keeper!
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it. Yes, “wonky” is about to sweep the nation.
Such moving accounts here. There is no doubt, Teddy Bears are very important friends. Anyone who loves them, there is a book I’ve supported on my authonomy shelf for ages, to get it to the editor’s desk, you may enjoy reading in it: http://authonomy.com/books/14459/last-days-of-the-transitional-objects-institute/read-book/#chapter
Sounds like an inventive book; thank you for suggesting it.
Thank you for reading and commenting :–)
Yes, and I still have “Grey Donkey” (which even as a five-year-old I gave the British spelling to for the word “grey,” eschewing the American “gray” because I had seen the British spelling in a story book I liked). But I actually acquired Grey Donkey when I was three, and now he is in a bag in the storage bin in the basement with other more recent stuffed animals, where he resides at rest without his tasselled tail, and missing his red felt tongue except for the small remainder still adhering to the front of his face under his nose (the nostrils of which are also missing). His white mane is also gone (face it, he is just a lovable, huggable shape now). I guess I loved him to pieces for so long that he nearly came apart at the seams (but there is a trace of red non-matching thread where I sewed up one of his loose seams when I was ten or eleven). Children are funny, aren’t they? Solemn little adults, in a way, who demand that the world take them seriously. They live in a special world with rules all its own, and then one day they’re really adults, and the world still doesn’t make sense only now THEY have to take IT seriously! Maybe I’ll unpack Grey Donkey and put him in his earned place of honor on my bed. Thanks for reminding me with your post!
What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it.
“and the world still doesn’t make sense only now THEY have to take IT seriously!” – how right you are!
Oh Katia how touching! I remember my favourite doll having been mindlessly thrown away by mummy while we (my sister and I) were away at the children’s holiday center. When we returned home there was no sign of the doll. Mother told us that the doll had been old with only half a head, in raggedy clothes. And that she thought we would not like to play with her any more because it was so bad-looking. And that she had bought us a new lovely neatly-clad doll. Our mother has always been a wonderful person, but on at that time she could not understand why we kept crying for a few hours. We even rushed to the scrapheap trying to find the dear doll, which we did not of course. It was gone. I had virtually forgotten about this thing, but your story brought it back to mind. It was my mum’s only blunder in all her life. Which I still remember. Pity is akin to love.
Thank you for sharing your story, Anna. My mother did try throwing Teddy away many times, but I defied her. It’s the only childhood toy I have left.