This weekend, I came into possession of the last box of my stuff, two years and four months after the end of the preceding relationship. The box included an assortment of items, by far the most important of which was my childhood teddy bear.
Bear, as the bear was called, was given to me by a border who lived on the second floor of my parents’ house when I was a preschooler. My parents had saved enough to purchase the house a couple of years before, but they needed additional income to meet their mortgage payments, and so the border—whose name, I’m ashamed to admit, escapes me—came to join our strange little family.
Bear was presented to me on the occasion of my fourth birthday, and we immediately became the best of friends. I had other stuffed animals of course, but none could hold a candle to Bear. Bear was no garden-variety black bear or grizzly, I’ll have you know, but a snow-white polar bear with orange eyes and black paws and a decorative bow made out of pink yarn. As you can well imagine, Bear was terribly handsome, and really the only bear for me.
Bear came with me through childhood and adolescence, and was a most agreeable companion. I read stories to him as a five-year old, and he listened attentively. I practiced kissing on him when I was eight, which I suppose made him my first friend with benefits. And at ten, when I first realized that there was something very wrong with my mother, I held him as close as I could and cried.
Bear moved out of my parents’ house with me and into the anarchist co-op, then to my own apartments and finally to Montreal, where he remained in a plastic bag in Phil’s closet waiting to be unpacked. He never was. After I moved out, I asked Phil to look for him, not yet comprehending that we wouldn’t speak again.
I had given up on Bear, assuming, darkly, that he had been thrown out or sold off at a yard sale or otherwise disposed of. Whatever his fate, I mourned his loss and carried on without him. I had finally become an adult, or so I thought, until the moment Bear returned and I instantly became a child.
Frankly, Bear isn’t quite the bear he used to be. He’s been through the permanent press cycle several too many times, and is now considerably floppier than he was in his youth. He was nearly brown when I pulled him out of his box, where he had lain covered in dust and newsprint for months on end. But he still has his eyes and his crumpled pink bow, and, having endured one more cycle in the washing machine, he once again has the hue of a proper polar bear.
From here on in, Bear stays with me. Which is as it should be.