Baby Teddy – One Good Bear

The Tale of Baby Teddy

As I approach my 59th birthday and inspired by the prompt for Day 20 of Writing 101, I have to write about someone who’s been with me through it all.

Baby Teddy, One Good Bear

Baby Teddy today looks much the way that I remember him since I was old enough to form memories.  His appearance is beyond “shabby chic”, he went through a lot in his early years. There are no known pictures of him as a young Teddy so we can’t be sure what he looked like when he first came into my life. Diminutive in stature, about 9 inches tall, I’m guessing his name came from his small size but it could be because I preferred teddy bears to baby dolls.  But I digress.

I’m pretty sure we don’t even know who gave him to me; I suppose it doesn’t matter.  He claimed my heart and in spite of my parents trying to entice me with a Winnie the Pooh bear (which I loved, don’t get me wrong) and numerous other pretty fluffy stuffed animals, I wouldn’t part with him.  I think they were embarrassed by his shoddy exterior.  It didn’t matter to me.

Baby Teddy’s Disappearance

This was a tragic day, I was about three years old. Carrying him with me everywhere, I remember awaking from my nap only to realize he wasn’t with me.  Where was he?  I searched, I sobbed and was completely devastated.  This went on for several days and I wasn’t getting over it.

One evening, my Dad came home and called for me. With puffy eyes, I stumbled into the living room, looked up and stopped in my tracks.

“Look who I found walking through the flower garden” he said, holding Baby Teddy by the paw.  Not noticing that he was worse for wear, his eyes sewn back into place, the majority of his fur missing, I hugged him with all my might and sure enough, he smelled like flowers. It was a miracle and at age three, you just accept miracles without questioning them.

Baby Teddy never strayed again and was with me through all the highs and lows of my youth, my teens and had his fair share of tears cried onto his tiny shoulders as he gave me comfort.

The Family Secret……..

Many years later, I was at work and fell into a daydream thinking of Baby Teddy, remembering his mysterious disappearance many years before and his trek back to me through that flower garden. Now an adult, it occurred to me that there was clearly another part of that story that had remained a family secret.  And I had to know what the truth was, no matter what, no matter how hard it was to hear.

I called my Mom.  “Hi” she said in her cheery voice “What’s up?”

What happened to Baby Teddy, I have to know!

I’m sure she was caught off guard (what, no hello?)  Where was this coming from after so many years? She was quiet for a long minute. (I think she was suppressing a nervous laugh) But I’m sure she knew this day would come.

“Well, you carried him everywhere” she began “Everywhere. Even into the bathroom.”

She went on to say that I’d placed him carefully on the toilet tank and that when she next went in, he’d taken a plunge – into the less than pristine toilet.  While I was sleeping, she’d fished him out and taken him to the trash.

Then I woke up from nap time and all hell broke loose.  I began the search and was in such a state that she and Dad made the decision to discreetly rescue him and put him through the washing machine. That explained the eye mishaps and the nearly total loss of fur.  Apparently, they next  placed him somewhere to air dry, high enough that I wouldn’t discover him. (I imagine after they saw what the washer did, the dryer might have been the end for him.)  Dismayed by his appearance but seeing that I was still distraught after several days, they came up with the “walk through the flower garden” story, first spritzing him with perfume and reunited us.

You threw him in the garbage???” was the first thing that I said thinking, “arghhh the humanity!” (I’ve always been a bit dramatic)

Sometimes you just can’t handle the truth.

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Here is a picture of my Baby Teddy today – still with me and holding a million memories and secrets, one good bear.

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Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.

It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.

A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.

Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.

If you enjoyed this, check out:  https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/like-my-dad/ ‎

My Home at age 12

At age twelve, I lived with my parents and my sister.  Mom and Dad designed and built our home  seven years earlier.  I recall a visit there while it was under construction.

“This is your bedroom” Dad announced “and Lisa, this is yours”.  We squealed with delight as we ran into the empty rooms, straight to the windows.  With nothing but the frames, we leaned out and waved. “What fun” we thought “we’re neighbors!”  A novelty to be sure, we’d always shared a room.

The home was on a quiet, tree-lined side street, walking distance from the family business. At it’s end was a park. My aunt, her family and my grandparents lived on the corner and across the street respectively. It shared mix of homes. Some modest, ours was one of the largest.

My lifelong BFF lived around the corner. I’d walk to school with my her, my sister, cousins and neighbor kids.  It was so close that often I’d run home from school and eat lunch with Mom.

We had a deep back yard with rolling hills.  Dad hung a tree swing in the willow tree, my favorite to climb. By the time I was twelve, he’d had an a-frame treehouse constructed.  Incredibly unique, it was “the place” to hangout or have sleep-overs. It also was “home-base” for hide-and-seek. Ours was the best yard in the neighborhood for hiding places you see.

A brick, ranch-style house, it was modern with many striking features. A fieldstone, wrap-around fireplace visible from both the living and family rooms. A sauna Dad installed, inspired following our trip to the Montreal 67 Expo where we’d experienced our first sauna. The finished walk-out basement with thick cream-colored shag carpet, a fire-engine red, free-standing gas fireplace and a bar. That bar top took 3 men to carry in and featured river rocks set in lucite.  I’ve never seen another like it.

At age twelve, I got to update my pale pink bedroom.  It was the late 60’s. I chose black carpet, black and silver beads for my windows, adding a lime-green Tiffany lamp and matching crushed-velvet chair.  A creamy white faux-fur bedspread was the crowning touch.  Add a black light and psychedelic posters pinned onto a cork board that Mom covered with black burlap. A seriously cool room for an almost-teen.

I loved that home, the neighborhood, the town.  I felt safe there, knew all the neighbors.  There were tons of kids the same age. Kickball, softball, sledding, bike riding and the like filled those years.  We played outside till dark or later, summoned home when we heard our parents call our names.

I would later become the President of the Chamber of Commerce in this town and chose to live my life here. Thirty years ago I moved into the house that my grandparents built when my Dad was a boy, a home I’d been in as a child.  The bonus? It’s walking distance from my childhood home.

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Our Writing 101 assignment for today, was to write about where we lived at age twelve. The twist was to mix long, medium and short sentences.

A Smile and a Wave

It was Spence who first brought him to my attention, less than a mile from my home, as you round the bend coming into our little downtown.  Spence honked and waved.

“Who are you waving at?” I asked.

“My buddy” he answered.  But we’d already driven past.

I started paying attention.  A young man with Down’s Syndrome, in his twenties if I had to guess, sitting in front of his house and waving to passing drivers. I started waving back whenever I saw him.  Always cheerful, consistently enthusiastic, he brightens my day as I imagine he does for others. He’s like our small town’s ambassador. In the bitter cold of winter, his time outside was curtailed but I’d still look.

Just a few days ago, Spence and I were driving into town.

“Oh no” he remarked “He’s in a wheelchair”.  Not knowing the nature of his health, we both feared what that meant.

Quite by chance, I saw a post on Facebook a few hours later.  It introduced Dustin and talked of his joy in waving to friends, how he loved making people happy.  Dustin recently had surgery that confined him to a wheelchair during a three month recovery.  And until recently, kept him housebound.  That is when some good citizens came forward and built a ramp for him.  Just heard there was a need and stepped up in a single weekend to return a kindness.  Dustin had impacted them with his unbridled friendliness and in turn, made new friends.

Happy to know that the wheelchair is only temporary we now had a name and a glimpse into this endearing young man’s life.

A smile and a wave can make a difference.

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Writing 101 assignment for today was to share a character study of someone we’d met who’d impacted our lives within the last year.  

Running Away

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Mommy,

I’m running away from home. 

You can’t just take away my teddy bear cause I broke the TV.  It isn’t fair. I didn’t mean to. I found where you hid Baby Teddy and I rescued him. We’ll be together forever.

I made us a bag of brown sugar sandwiches and took my fuzzy pink sweater.  Don’t look for us.  Especially at Grandma’s house.  That’s not where we’re going. 

From Writing 101 – Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible. My twist: I find a letter recently when helping my Mom move.  I wrote it as a little girl, the only time I ran away…..to my Grandma’s house, across the street.  I had no idea she’d kept it.

Losing the Ability to Sleep

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For today’s Writing 101 prompt, we were to compose the first in a three-part series about loss, taking any direction that we choose.

Losing the Ability to Sleep

For most of my life, I’ve felt like I need eight hours of sleep but that ten or twelve hours would be even better.  As a child, I have memories of fighting nap time and bed time.  To know then what I learned later.  NEVER EVER PASS UP A CHANCE TO SLEEP.  And as a child, the ability to fall asleep is organic.  Oh to go back and catch up!

As a young adult, living on my own, I chose to work full days then party till the wee hours.  This left me with very little sleep but adrenaline and youth got me through those years.

Fast forward to my mid-thirties when the stress of watching my employee (at the time a friend) have a total breakdown over a period of months rendered me sleepless.  She became unrecognizable and despite seeking professional help, dangerous and toxic to everyone around her.  Even after changing jobs and ending that “relationship”, I was stuck in a cycle of insomnia that lasted for nearly twenty years.

Looking for a solution I tried everything. I bought a new bed.  A hot tub.  Did a sleep study.  Tried Ambien, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds.  The sleep study had determined that I never fell into REM sleep, that I would jerk awake repeatedly all night long.  I felt like a zombie.  I held down a job (in sales no less) that took every ounce of energy to stay focused, even with 1-2 hours total sleep.  I felt desperate.

The one respite that started me back on track were vacations in which I could fall back into a pattern of deep sleep and dreaming.  During the years Spence and I traveled to Costa Rica, we would come back midday, take a cool shower followed by a siesta.  Siestas – best idea ever!  Never one to be able to sleep during the day, I found I could do it then because there was no pressure to wake up by a certain time.

In recent years, I’ve been better.  Work related stress would trigger restless nights but I didn’t slip back into longterm patterns.  Retiring in February 2014 was the biggest turning point.  Now if I woke up in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t fret about it.  I would either grab my Kindle or meditate knowing that the clock didn’t dictate my life and the alarm wouldn’t go off just as I drifted into deep sleep.

I wrote a poem last year about insomnia and though it appears elsewhere on my blog, felt I’d share it again here.

Insomnia

When you are young, sleep comes naturally, effortlessly.
Falling into bed, asleep on impact.
When did it start? Can’t shut off the thoughts in my monkey brain.
Oh my, why did I ever say no to a nap?

Falling into bed, asleep on impact.
So many problems to be solved, hurts to be healed, staring at the clock.
Oh my, why did I ever say no to a nap?
Tick tock, tick tock, sleep eludes me, so tired yet so wired.

Peace of mind restored, letting go, accepting what I cannot change.
When did it start? Can’t shut off the thoughts in my monkey brain.
Gratitude as sleep returns, how I now cherish a rest-filled night.
When you are young, sleep comes naturally, effortlessly.

Just Three Songs?

From our third Writing 101 assignment participants are asked to free write about the three most important songs in our life.

My first thought “ugh”.  Not because I don’t love music but rather because I LOVE MUSIC.  In order to complete the assignment without completely losing my mind I’m going to slightly alter it to choose my three favorite albums.

  • Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell
  • Aqualung by Jethro Tull
  • Live at the Troubadour by Carole King and James Taylor

The first two were easy enough since I owned them on LP, cassette, CD and full downloads to my iPod.  The third I happened upon quite by accident at my neighborhood Blockbuster check-out counter which featured a CD/DVD pack of a live performance by the incomparable Carole King and James Taylor.

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Court and Spark:  The brilliance that is Joni Mitchell is never brighter than on this compilation (in my humble opinion).  I know the words to every song and they still evoke emotions at age 58 though in a different way than they did when I discovered it in high school.  The songs are lyrical, painting musical pictures.  Her voice resonates.  I have listened to this during happy times but also when nursing a broken heart. It is in a word…..divine.

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Aqualung represents the “rock chick” that I was at 16 and still am today.  This album was being released at the same time I went to see Jethro Tull in concert.  Having already discovered an earlier album by them, I was excited about the new release.  I’d never been to a concert but cannot  imagine a better performance than what I experienced that night. Ian Anderson, the lead singer and player of the flute, (that is such a defining instrument in their body of work), was electric.  I was mesmerized, gob-smacked, mind blown.  The songs are stories crafted inside of music that you can’t explain in words.  If you made me choose one song from the album, it would be “Locomotive Breath”.

And lucky me, last fall Spence and I traveled to see Jethro Tull in Buffalo, New York.  (see my earlier blog post “Flash Back – Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, then and now” for more about that experience and some little known trivia…..intrigued? I hope so.)

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Live at the Troubadour is like a gift from the gods.  First of all, the life work of James Taylor and Carole King, two of the most gifted singer/songwriters is without equal (again, I’m blogging so I get to state my opinion but sense I’m not alone). Spence and I have listened to this CD (and watched the DVD) so many times it would be impossible to guess. These are songs that are lovely, evocative and so interwoven into our lives and memories that you couldn’t extricate them if you wanted to – and why would you want to?  Listening to this music brings tears to my eyes, a smile to my face and  an overall sense that everything is right with the world.

So there you have it.  Not so hard an assignment once I tweaked it a bit.

Haven

For the Writing 101 Assignment for Day Two, participants were asked to be transported to a place we’d want to go to right now, our “room with a view”, the back story and how it affects us.

Where I want to go right now:  In a few short weeks, Spence and I will be heading back to this place; I simply need to be patient. It is a place we’ve vacationed every year since we discovered it.

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The Back Story:  A number of years ago, I found a place on homeaway.com that Spence and I now think of as our second home.  Located in the midst of the woods, through a valley, up a winding hillside adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, it is a haven for Spence and I.  Here we reconnect with each other and nature, recharge and relax.  A log-built home, perfect for two and with no one else in sight.  Our haven.

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The “Room with a View” and How it Affects Us:  With a balcony off the loft and one off the bedroom, these are our windows to the sunrise, rainfall, woodlands and wildlife. I rise early and climb the stairs to the loft, a steaming cup of tea in my hand and a soft blanket to wrap around me. I inhale the pine scented air, breathe in the dew on the leaves as I feel the steam from the tea against my face.

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I sense the breeze and watch the sun as it peeks through the leaves.

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I listen closely for signs of wildlife as we’ve seen bears here but am more likely to see butterflies and squirrels.  I meditate and enjoy the solitude, grateful for everything good in my life.

During the day and into the evening, our balconies draw Spence and I to them.  Here we read, talk about everything or nothing, happily observe and enjoy being together. With many a glass of wine or beer, we’ve toasted each other as daylight fades into twilight then to dark.

At least once every trip, it rains. At times intense then soft, it’s always welcome at night when it lulls us to sleep.  Last year on our first night while sipping a glass of wine, we heard the rain start to fall. I stood and leaned against the railing with my face and arms stretched forward.  Spence held me and we remained there, suspended in the moment, letting the mist cover us.