A bear’s well-earned retirement
Looking back, though, it should have been clear that Bear's days as best non-human bud were numbered. Monday night, they ended.
I'd started wondering a few years ago how it might happen. Would I be piecing together tattered remains of Bear as Big Guy packed for college? Would we lose the last Bear and all his dopplegangers, leaving a sad little boy crying himself to sleep?
No. It was clinical and almost cold. Big Guy took up with a new toy and dumped Bear under the bed to sleep with the dust bunnies. The end.
It was during February's Teddy Bear Picnic at school that Big Guy found out that a chunk of the world - most importantly, a chunk of his world - doesn't get Bear. They don't understand a stuffed friend with only arms and a head, a dingy blanket for a body and orange fabric paint streaked across his head.
Those were all traits Big Guy loved and loved to cuddle every night, until friends pointed out that they were odd. Suddenly, Big Guy was noticing the oddities, too.
A few weeks after the picnic, Big Guy planned a bash for Bear, complete with cake, candles and "Happy Birthday" with "cha-cha-chas" - everything a boy or a bear could want. Turns out it was Bear's last hurrah.
In the days that followed, Big Guy quit hauling Bear on the walk to school. He'd long ago been relegated to the stroller, our little secret. Then Big Guy lost interest in the nightly frantic search for Bear. No pleas of "he'll be so sad without me." Just a shrug and an "I'll find him tomorrow."
Monday, while on an alleged mission to pick the crap out of the middle of his bedroom floor, Big Guy decided instead to rummage through a toy box. He dug out an 11-inch Mickey Mouse in a baseball uniform. It'd once been mine, but I had given it to Big Guy when he was a baby as I struggled to distract him one night so I could finish working.
"Oh, Momma! Baby Mickey wants to play! Don't you want to play, Baby Mickey?" Big Guy asked.
Baby Mickey "shook his head" and answered. "Yes! Yes!"
He answered in "Bear's" voice.
That night at bedtime, Boots gathered up Bear and carried him to bed for Big Guy. That must have been the last straw for Big Guy - if That Baby thought Bear was important, then Bear must be totally trivial.
"Nah, I don't want him," Big Guy said, carelessly dumping Bear under the bed. "Baby Mickey's here."
I understand the appeal. Baby Mickey has the legs Bear lacks, and he doesn't look nearly as baby-ish. Plus Mickey is cool enough among the kindergarten set that he's allowed to ride to school in Big Guy's backpack and permitted to come out and meet Big Guy's friends on the way home.
I'm OK with it. I can see Big Guy's point.
Bear remained dust-bunny food for 24 hours, until I decided to see if Big Guy was serious. I tucked Big Guy and Baby Mickey into bed, then casually picked up Bear.
"So do you want Bear tonight?"
"No, you can have him. You can cuddle him at night now."
As soon as Big Guy went to sleep I did, hugging the well-worn friend's head to my shoulder just as I had Baby Big Guy all those years ago when he was so tiny his fanny fit in one hand. I hugged him for all he'd helped my baby through, from day care to scary dreams to surgeries. I hugged him because even if Big Guy wouldn't miss him, I would.
Bear sits on my desk now, though one day he'll move to a box or a dark corner of a closet.
Not just yet, though. I'm not quite that OK with it.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.