Bear Hug

That was the name of my childhood best friend and teddy bear. I’m not sure if that was actually his name, but it was emblazoned on his t-shirt, so that was what I decided to call him.

He originally belonged to my mother. I remember the day I got him. At least I think I do. It’s my earliest memory of him, so it’ll have to do as his origin story. We were at my grandparents house. I remember my mom getting him and giving him to me, explaining that he was her teddy bear when she was my age.

It’s crazy that in today’s world, I cannot find any record of such a teddy bear ever existing. I’s hard to google search something with such a generic name. I suspect the toy was from sometime between 1965-1975, but I can’t be certain. I still mostly remember how he looks, so you will have to use your imagination, but I will describe him for you.

He was brown, with a cream circle around his mouth. Kind of like Homer Simpson, just different colours. I think his eyes were black and he had a black plastic nose. For some reason, I think he had a red felt mouth, but that fell off, so my Bear Hug had no mouth. The thought of a mouth on him seems weird. Maybe that’s why he was such a good listener!

He wore a yellow top, I’m fairly certain it was a long sleeved one. It was very faded yellow by the time I got him. I’m pretty sure that “bear hug” was written in red. You couldn’t remove his top. He didn’t wear pants, like Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know if that was by design or if he lost his pants long ago. I also remember his paws. I certainly held them long enough! They were round and very soft.

Sometimes I would dress him up in pants and a jacket. I loved dressing my toys in my old clothes. I still have “Oggy”, my orangutang and he is currently wearing one of my old baby suits. It’s hard to imagine me being so tiny!

Obviously, we were the best of friends. On car trips, I would buckle him up with me, just in case of an accident. I didn’t want anything to happen to him. We would watch movies or read books together. Share picnic lunches. Talk about life and the world. He was perfect. He never once complained about having to watch the Ninja Turtles with me every single weekend.

As I grew older, we played less and less. Eventually, we stopped sharing a bed and he moved into his own room, in the wardrobe. I felt guilty about it, so I made sure he had a nice set up. We’d still see each other every day. Children grow up and it is a normal part of life, but I felt bad for growing up. I made sure that he was always around. Occasionally we’d have the odd chat and reminisce about old times.

Sadly, when my parents divorced, my mother took Bear Hug. (And mostly everything else, but I don’t want to get into that right now). I’ve not seen him since. It’s been about 13 years I think. Maybe more, maybe less. I don’t know.

I have a daughter of my own now, as most of you know. Throughout my life, I always wished I still had Bear Hug, but this was only intensified when I found out my wife was pregnant. It truly broke my heart that I wouldn’t be able to gift my daughter with Bear Hug and one day, she in turn could gift it to her children (if she decides to have any!).

As I mentioned, I still have Oggy. I managed to keep a few other things. I still have my Glowworm. My possum hand puppet. My puppy dog. The football that dad got for me. My first Batman toy. Just not my best buddy. I wish I had him for Chicago.

It’s not that she is alone. She has her own companion and best friend, a raccoon, named Raphael. She calls him “Waffy”. It warms my heart to see them together. They share lunches, watch movies, read books and many other things. She is very kind to him and he to her.

Whenever it is bedtime, Chicago has to give Raph a goodnight hug and kiss. Then I have to give him a hug and kiss. The Chicago and I have to hug and kiss. Then the 3 of us have to have a group hug. Then I need to tuck them in, give Raph a high-five, ruffle Chicago’s hair and then, I can finally make my exit.

I think it’s great that children can have that relationship. I try my best to be a good father, but I do fail sometimes. Raphy never fails though. He is perfect. Just like Bear Hug. He will never be too tired to play with her. He will never lose his patience and yell at her. He never upsets her. He is the perfect companion and friend. He will always be there for her, even when I fail to be.

I’m so happy she has that relationship. Even if I complain to my wife about my daughter being dependent on a toy. Secretly I love it. It brings a smile to my face every time I see them cuddled together and watching a movie. But, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bring back memories and make me sad that it isn’t Bear Hug she is obsessed with.

The thought of my childhood companion all alone and stuffed in a box somewhere breaks my heart. I imagine his life is loveless and lonely. He should be here with us, having the stuffing squeezed out of him by my little girl. Sharing pizza and watching the Ninja Turtles every weekend, just like we used to. Bears are made to be loved, not to collect dust. It just makes me want to cry.

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