Even after the bear post was up, people continued to bring out their teds. What else can I do except put these precious (and often decrepit) childhood relics on display? I will put these up today in lieu of “Readers’ wildlife photos”.
Reader Nick Hiltner sends a “traveling bear”:
In 1991, an aunt gave me and my siblings stuffed bears. Since she had traveled to see us, she called them “traveling bears”. Once, when we were driving (to Poland!) with the windows down, I snuck my sleeping brother’s bear away from him. Then I rolled up my window and woke him. He saw his bear in my hand, and watched as I chucked it at the passing fields. He screamed and lunged, but was restrained by his seatbelt, his bear bouncing back into his lap.My sister and brother retired their Traveling Bears long ago, but mine still travels with me.
My good friend Andrew Berry, who teaches at Schmarvard, sent an essay on his toy panda (like the one in the last post, also named “Panda”), which turned into a musing on mortality:
Panda and his owner have been through a lot together. And over a long period: like many treasured soft-toy companions, Panda is about the same age as his owner. He had a rough start to life, being, you might say, overly loved. The results were one ear being rather larger than the other (from being dragged around by it) and what might be termed mild alopecia of love — hair/fluff loss. More problematic, however, was the connection between Panda’s head and his body. Being dragged around by your ear is hard on your neck, especially if you don’t really have one. Panda’s head and the rest of him started to separate, necessitating emergency surgery. A tricky procedure, and one that has resulted in Panda being permanently rather well dressed (by naked panda standards, anyway). He wears in perpetuity a tartan tie, which must never come off (for fear of his head coming off with it).Panda’s owner, being the product of bourgeois English parents, was sent off in 1976 to boarding school at the age of 13. A traumatic parting for all involved. Panda’s owner recognized that it would be rather unmanly to appear at his single-sex boarding school accompanied by a rather raggedy, tie-wearing Panda. Panda would have to stay at home. Aargh…, the separation! A (partial) solution: on a pre-boarding school trip to Wales, Panda posed on a dry stone wall and allowed himself to be polaroid photographed (a technology that was all the rage at the time). The photograph accompanied his owner to school, and Panda headed home to an empty childhood bedroom. But Panda has never been neglected or forgotten. For example, he followed his owner across the Atlantic for a new life in the US, where Panda ponders the ideas de jour such as the shortcomings of his thumb (well, in his case, the complete lack of one).Below are a couple of photos of Panda and his owner, including a scan of the original 1976 Panda Polaroid. Panda and his owner represent a nice example of what should perhaps be called Dunnet-Fulmar Effect. George Dunnet (1928-95) was a Scottish ornithologist who was photographed in 1950 with one of the seabirds he was working on, a fulmar. Forty-two years later we have another photo of Dunnet with the same bird. The bird is unchanged, Dunnet is not unchanged. In comparing the 1976 photos of Panda and his owner with ones taken this year, we see the same pattern. Panda, fulmar-like, is enigmatically ageless; his owner is in a state of headlong decay.
Reader Sarah Crews sent a pair of tigers:
So, the tigers in the pic…While I was doing my post-doc in Australia in 2009, my aunt Mary Lou (a family member I regularly spoke to) was diagnosed with bladder cancer and it had spread and the prognosis was not good. I ended up leaving a few months early from Australia (note, I did finish everything and publish on time etc). She slowly got somewhat better and things seemed to be going ok until this year when there were multiple problems and the doctors said surgery would be too complex and “not worth it” (I said she should see other doctors).She passed away about a month ago and my sister went to help clean out her house.( My aunt was a bit of a hoarder.) She always liked cats and dogs and when we would go to Ohio for easter or Thanksgiving when I was 3-5, I would go in their house, play with their beagle, Buddy and then go under the bed and spend the day with Cocoa, the 18 lb calico cat [JAC: a live cat.] Like I would just hang out under there all day until forced to come out. On the bed were two stuffed tigers. I think one may have been my aunt or uncle’s when they were children and the other was won at a fair or carnival, or maybe they both were. Anyway, before cleaning, my sister asked if there was anything I might want. I said, well, it’s a long shot, but there were these two tigers…I got the package last week. I hadn’t seen them for over 30 years and they were just like I remembered. I don’t remember the two little cats that were also sent, but I suppose those are probably something my grandmother made a long time ago.
Mary Bierbaum has an especially beat-up bear, a real gerontocrat:
This is Bobby Bear. He belongs to my husband and he estimates that Bobby is 70 years old. He originally belonged to his oldest sister but he became the owner when he was about 8. The jacket, now seriously moth-eaten was made by his mother for one of his sisters’ Barbie Doll but he claimed it for Bobby. Bobby has become a family mascot and is the official bear of the Bierbaum Family Reunion. His eyes are long gone and so is his fuzz and his nose is completely squished due to the redistributing of his stuffing.
Reader Hetta has a battered bear who evolved an exaptation:
I got this guy from my grandparents before I was born. There are hundreds of stories about him.. He’s been through al ot over the years…
When I was was around 5 years old, the back of his head got a big tear. The tear kept growing and growing until it turned into a big hole and there was too much teddy tissue missing for him to just be sewn back together again..
But one day, my dad decided he would surprise me. He took an extra long lunch hour, went home and very carefully stitched him togethe rwith what little fabric was still there to sew in.
When i got home and saw him sewn back together I got really upset. By sewing his head back together, the shape of his face and head had changed.. making him look …. really stretched.. Kind of like a person who’s had too many face lifts.. Teddy style.
I thanked my dad and then, with a pair of scissors, removed every single stitch.
This is what he looks like now, 18 years later. Now in charge of my contraceptive pills.
And he still has a big hole in the back of his head.
Note: the first photo is of the front of the bear:
If you have a childhood plush toy you haven’t sent it, go ahead and do it. If there are enough I’ll make one more post. Thanks to all for sending in their teddies, tigers, and so on.