Teddy Bear

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When I was packing my things to leave for college, a mere four years ago, I packed the usual essentials: colorful comforter, books and booze, slippers and stilettos, sweatpants and skinny jeans, casual tops but even more eye-catching tops–carefully packing each item so the important…breakable bottles…were well cushioned by clothing.  Yet, I had a separate box which contained my Harry Potter blanket and my four highly loved stuffed animals; three teddy bears and stuffed animal mouse.

The first bear I placed into the box was a Christmas gift from my closest friend at the time and I was packing it because we had always bonded the strongest through our hugs and he told me when he gave it to me that whenever I missed him and wasn’t around to hug him I could just hug the stuffed animal.  (Oh yea…and we were also extremely corny friends like that.)  My friend was going to go to a college in Ohio which I believe we figured to be about 2,000 miles from my school…not really accessible for an easy hug.  And in the past four years we had never spent more than a day apart from one another so I knew that I would be in dire need of his medicinal hugs.

The second stuffed animal I placed in the box was another teddy bear I had acquired in my last year at high school.   Actually….it is a stuffed rabbit to be completely accurate. The reasoning behind my packing that little rascal was because my friend and I had bought them for ourselves because we were leading an intense four day retreat together.  And the most hilarious day ensued our purchase of those fine looking rabbits.  The four days on the retreat with my friend leader and that crazy rabbit were the most intense four consecutive days I have ever lived and that crazy rabbit was one tangible item from all the madness and memories.  I knew that college was only going to give me more hectic, stressful crazy days in my life but I figured the rabbit would remind me all craziness comes to an end and somehow the craziness is remembered in fond format.

The third animal I packed in the box was yet another gift to me.  A gift from my best friend’s mother–she gave an identical to her daughter. “So that when you two are at different schools you can see your bear and realize you are still always together.”  Only 48 hours before I would be leaving for my new home in Normal, I teared up at her statement.  That is when I realized I knew I would be meeting new people but I never wanted to forget or try to replace the important people I already in my life.

The last stuffed animal I packed was Missy…Missy the Mouse.  She was my first stuffed animal that came into my possession. Missy has quite literally gone to every major location I have ever gone in my life-my grade school for pajama day, high school for a religion project, vacations for emotional support, the hospital for emotional support…so it seemed it would be insult to Missy if I did not drag her along for the most exciting place:  Normal.

Now, I brought my stuffed animals with me for rather specific reasons.  But generally speaking these cuddly friends serve a grandiose purpose in the world of a child. They serve as a cute pacifier to quiet a child’s scream in church.  They serve as an object in a child’s playtime to jump start a story line.  They serve as a friend to talk to when a child’s parent thinks it is more amusing to pay taxes than to listen to their child count to ten backwards.  They serve as a continuum to a child’s naivety.  They serve as an extension of a child’s mentality and personality.  They serve as an appendage.

But so did my mother’s hand.  Before I hit the inevitable age when I denied my parents’ extreme intelligence and denied that they existed before they turned 50-aka, out of sync with the world–I felt that I would fall off the edge of the world if I didn’t have my mother’s hand to keep my here.

I didn’t realize, until parents’ weekend, that maybe sometimes it’s necessary to grab hold of that hand that was ever faithful in keeping you from falling off of the world.  Maybe…just maybe…we all have to dig up our stuffed animals eventually….

 But do we have to go digging in the attic through dusty boxes for those childhood-memory-keepers-or do we simply have to dig through a makeup-spilled, cancer product enhancing filled purse?

Over parents’ weekend I stayed the evening with my parents in their hotel room, and as we lay in the dark on the cusp of falling asleep I answered text messages from my friends who had gone out that evening.        Friends whom were having a rough night and I simply wanted to hug, but couldn’t so I had to express my empathy through correct combinations of words, sad faces and punctuation.  While some of my other friends were talking to me about how we were excited to see each other because it has been too long since we have been together.  There were other friends who were simply playing the Remember When game with me.  Throwing out memories to one another and then giggling to ourselves because we weren’t even together so we each had to convey our actions into words…”oh my gosh I just snorted while laughing and my mom just gave me a dirty look,”   “Dude that’s not nearly as bad as me.   I’m standing alone in a corner crying and doubling over from laughter.  People are probably thinking that I am having a seizure and am laughing at myself….no wonder I only have you as a friend.”

Somehow these conversations do not seem nearly as comforting as they do in person.   And as much as I’m going to sound like my old man in the next sentence, I know it’s true.  Cell phones have changed the way we interact with others…even ourselves.  We can hide our emotions behind the barrier that the cell phone provides.  We can protect ourselves from the personal touch that some people frond discomforting.   But interestingly enough there is still electricity in a cell phone.  It may not be the same electricity that physical contact can provide, the static may be less intoxicating and captivating, but it is still there.  But do we want to replace that?  Do we want to lower ourselves and allow a vibrating object, a light and some letters to replace a live, vibrant verbal relationship?

I’m embarrassed to agree with my popa on the fact that I go to bed more often with a cell phone then I have a stuffed animal lay on my bed.  Frankly, I hate having people sleep in my bed so I’d rather have a cell phone lay in bed with me than an actual person.  What is wrong with the world that cell phones are replacing the human instinct to love the touch of a comforting human or even our teddy bears?  Why is society, ourselves, encouraging the distancing of…well…each other?   What’s so wrong with our teddy bears..our past relationships…that scare us?  Do we not like facing people of pasts that we have to create a barrier?  Is the distance is what keeps us close?

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