It’s not the kind of thing most guys will admit to. By the time you hit my age, the thing has been thrown away a long time ago or found later when cleaning out your parent’s attic. But if I were to be honest about the toy that meant the most to me, it was this hand-stitched Winnie the Pooh bear. It’s not like the kind you get in the store and I absolutely hate the way Disney has turned it into a computer generated mess. But that bear has been the foundation of plenty of times I have had to make choices in my life.
Ironically my senior year in high school the theater group was doing a children’s play. Winnie the Pooh! So it had my name written all over it. But I was destined to play Kanga, the largest character and one that required me to speak in a female voice for an hour, including singing a song. 6’4″, 200 pounds wearing panty-hose and a giant costume while small children held back either their laughter or fear at the sight of me. I remember sitting in the floor at the audition talking about how I would be a koala bear, climbing the trees with my claws so I could see the world. Took a few more years before I learned they were stoned 99% of their lives.
That bear changed my world view in multiple ways. It’s led to conversations with other people who wanted to know why I would risk bringing it to college. A time when your supposed to be an adult, I brought a bit of my childhood. Fortunately it didn’t cause much of an issue with my fraternity, the nicknames could have been severe! They settled on Puddles [another long story!] In a way that bear humanized me at times when you feel less than human. Hospital visits? Instant conversation starter with a tech doing their job. Meeting the neighbors for the first time and they ask why it is sitting in the library of my house. It makes it easier to let your guard down when children are also in the room.
That bear more than any other person has gotten me through some seriously nasty times. In those lonely hours after my daughter died, I was speaking to that thing as if it were her. Needing to say things out loud that might have otherwise not been spoken. My brain was remembering the personification that being a child placed on it, so it was a natural place to go as an adult.
I know where all six of the original bears are located. If someone asked I could tell you the exact address of each person. None have passed them down to other people, they all remain with their intended recipient. Those five other people have come in and out of my life at various times and we always make some note of where we are keeping the bears.
Mine’s missing an eye, the red sweater is pulling in areas and it has been stained with more tears than I care to think about. It sits by the bed, Pooh’s watchful gaze protecting me from whatever. A strange guardian angel to go with my other one!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Toy Story.”