I was captivated last week by a blog post about photographer Mark Nixon's book, "Much Loved," which features photos and stories about well-worn and still treasured stuffed animals - many of them Teddy bears.
Later, at home, I went immediately to one of my bins-of-treasures stacked against the basement wall and pulled out my dear friend, Abraham.
He was my Christmas gift when I was 17. I asked my mom for a bear that year - perhaps it was a way to embody the spirit of my childhood, from which I was rapidly departing. I remember opening the package and squealing with delight at my bear's furry, slightly protruding belly and sweet, soulful eyes. I named him Abraham. It suited him.
A few weeks later, he was at my side when I was in the hospital for a thyroid condition. I parked him on the pillow next to me during the day and snuggled him close at night. I had better things to do than sit in a hospital bed for two weeks. Things like hanging out with my friends, editing the school paper and celebrating the final semester of my senior year of high school.
The thing is, if the two of us hadn't been in the hospital - Abraham never would have introduced me to the Charming Young Guy who eventually became my husband.
One night, the Charming Young Guy - a nursing assistant - came into my room to check my blood pressure and temperature. He spotted my brown friend peering from beneath the starchy white sheet that covered us both.
"What's your bear's name?" he asked.
I told him.
"Well, why isn't his name Ted?"
"It didn't suit him," I said. "He's just an Abraham."
"My name is Tedd," Charming Young Guy laughed.
Fortunately for me, Charming Young Guy had a sense of humor. And, after we were married, Abraham kept watch from a pillow perch on our bed all day, and - painful as it is to admit - slept on the floor at night. He eventually went to live on a shelf, and then in a bin with some of the bear siblings who came to live with us over the years. It's a challenge to leave any of these beloved bears out in the open - their lives would be endangered by the whirling dervishes (our dogs) whose instincts cause them to shred every stuffed animal they meet.
I wonder - do you keep some beloved vestiges of childhood stashed away? Whether you had a bear, a bun-bun, a blankie or doll, what stories come to mind? As evidenced by the Nixon's book, it doesn't seem to matter how old you are. The memories of that special object can bring comfort to your heart.
Teddy bears have Jewish roots!
Teddy bears are the stuff of American folklore - but did you know the first one was created by Brooklyn shopkeepers Rose and Morris Michtom? According to an article by Gilbert King in Smithsonian Magazine online (Dec. 21, 2012), Jewish couple heard about a hunting trip during which President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that was tied up, stating that it would be unsportsmanlike to do so. Rose, a seamstress, stitched a bear from velvet, which Morris placed in the shop window with a sign that said, "Teddy's bear." Many people asked to purchase the bear; the Michtoms, thinking they needed permission to use the name, sent a bear to the White House with their request. Roosevelt gave permission - and the Michtoms eventually formed the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.