The Comfort of Childish Things

Tomorrow is the birthday of someone who is very special to me.  He’s my oldest friend.  He knew me from the day that I was born.  He watched over me through my earliest years, was my shoulder to cry on all through my less than perfect childhood.  He moved with me several times, even lived in the dorm with me in college.  He has been the truest friend that a girl could ask for.

I’m talking, of course, about Bear Bear.

Bear Bear was a gift to my mom at my baby shower.  He was hand-made by a wonderful woman who was a friend of our family.  She made bears for so many children who were in her family or connected to her family.  Each one was unique.

Bear Bear is a polar bear.  I have it on good authority that he was fluffy and white at some point before I loved the fuzz out of him.  He came with a pair of blue farmer overalls, seeing as I am a Farmer and all.  That’s how I first knew he was a boy.  He used to have soft moleskin ears and feet, but I wore through that fabric a long, long time ago.

I used to feed Bear Bear Cheerios by stuffing them behind the black leather patch that is his nose.  I seem to remember that it bothered me that he didn’t really have a mouth.  I took good care of him though.  Bear Bear had his stuffing taken out and was thrown into the washing machine twice when I had lice in elementary school and once when I was older, although I can’t remember why I washed him that time.  He’s on his fourth batch of stuffing.

When I felt like I was too old to be sleeping with a teddy bear, I converted Bear Bear into a pillow.  I could get away with having him in my bed for at least another ten years using that strategy.  But then the fabric he was made of started wearing very, very thin.  I knew the time had come for him to be just a decoration on my bed.  And there he sits to this day, when I am almost 38.

There’s something about our favorite toy or stuffed animal from childhood that stays with us forever.  Those things are called “security” blankets and the like.  It’s such a wonderful thing to thin of an item of such innocence filling us with security.  They’re like a piece of our parents, our parents before we realized they were human beings with flaws, that we could hold onto when we were scared.  It’s amazing to think that such a simple object could work so powerfully on our piece of mind.

My brother Stewart had a blanket.  It was a Winnie-the-Pooh printed blanket that he called “Goggie”.

For the record, that is smaller than a dish towel

Stewart used to chew on Goggie.  He must have started chewing when he was teething.  Goggie originally had a satin border and was the size of a standard baby blanket.  That’s before the chewing started.

Over time Goggie shrank.  First the satin band came off.  Then the remaining edges grew ragged.  My mom cut off the ragged bits, but Stewart kept on loving and chewing.  Goggie went through several trimmings and grew more and more threadbare.  After a while you could barely see the Winnie-the-Pooh designs anymore.  But Mom would still find him tucked under Stewart’s pillow when she went to change the sheets on his bed.

Then came the day, I think Stewart was in high school, when Mom and I found Goggie in the trash.  Well let me tell you, we weren’t having any of that!  I fished Goggie out of the trash and handed him to Mom, who said, “I guess it’s not cool to have a Goggie anymore.”

I wonder if in Stewart’s mind the day he threw away Goggie was the day he became a man.  That must be the fundamental difference between men and women.  It would have broken my heart to get rid of Bear Bear, even into my 30s.  To this day if there was ever a fire in my apartment I would grab Bear Bear and the thumb drives that have everything I’ve ever written on them first.  Stewart willingly got rid of Goggie.  Maybe it was his declaration of independence.  Maybe by casting aside the innocent comforts of his past he was preparing to take life by the horns.

Psht!  Men!

I am a firm believer that we should all keep pieces of our innocence with us well into adulthood.  We might grow up, but we never outgrow the need to feel sheltered and protected.  In fact, the more adult I come the more I long to have someone as omnipotent as my mom was when I was a little girl to hold me and tell me everything would be alright.  Knowing that sometimes things are not alright is all the more reason to chew on your security blanket at night.

I still give Bear Bear a hug now and then when I really need it.  He understands.  He’s been my best friend since before I was born.  And Bear Bear is not alone.  I still have Goggie too.  It’ll make a great wedding present for his wife.

So how about you?  Did you have a cherished blanket or toy?  Do you still have it?