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A Good Bear

The baby shower was an odd, giggly, pastel event in a high-tech corporate lunchroom. I was embarrassed to acknowledge this most-female of all times—the last month of my pregnancy. Two for two female corporate lawyers dropping babies within six weeks of each other—what was that going to do for the status of our gender?

Here I was, socializing with those people I wasn’t supposed to socialize with—the female secretaries and administrators so excited about my huge belly and impending status-change. The lunch table was buried in wrapping paper, ribbons and excitement. One of those pastel packages held a small misshapen yellow bear.

My “lovies”—the important friends, confidants and mentors of my childhood—were stuffed dogs and cats. I nuzzled their fake fur to the point of eradication, along with replacement eyes and noses. I only learned latter that you were “supposed” to have a teddy bear. Ah, my child would be a normal kid—that elusive goal of mine. Here was her bear.

But this bear didn’t even look like a bear. The ladies explained–this is a bear for very little babies who are too small for scary-faced, limbed bears with choking-hazard eyes. Yellow Bear was soft, with a gentle rattle, washable and genderless.

He carefully minded the empty crib for a couple of weeks and came with us to the hospital on labor day. He adored and adorned tea parties and was a favorite of the baby and child-focused paparazzi. He even landed a song.

Of course it’s the favorite stuffed animal that takes the most journeys and therefore increases the odds of disappearance. And face it, how long will a kid cry when she loses the toy she didn’t really care about? I don’t think my four year old lost the bear. And while I tend to misplace things, I always find them. The disappearance of Yellow Bear still mystifies me. Yes, I blame myself.

Finally, I wrote a long impassioned letter to the Gund Company, complete with a recording of the song I’d written a year or so earlier about Yellow (co-starring a few other choice bears.) I was pretty sure they must get lots of these letters and figured they probably had a procedure for handling them.

The concerned-and-corporate-toned response asked for a photograph of the bear. I sent the picture complete with the adorable infant who had grown to love it so much. Their next letter apologized; this bear had been discontinued quite some time ago and while they searched arduously, they could not locate the model in yellow. However they found one in pink. There would be no charge for this bear as it was damaged by a permanent smudge on its nose. Did I want the slightly-defective non-replacement bear?

Of course. I washed the little nose a few times and hung onto the bear, wondering how to best introduce it. It completely lacked Yellow Bear’s charm and was no substitute. Still, it wasn’t a bad bear. One afternoon during nap time, I tried to slip it in her bed, excited by the prospect of her reaction when she woke to see it. But the tiny infant-appropriate-rattle woke my hard-sleeping child to the query “Yellow Bear?” The nap was lost and the loss refreshed. But this closed the replacement quest. This was a sijmple time before Ebay.

Many months later Gund sent another lengthy corporate missive. During a semi-annual inventory, they located a replacement yellow bear. If I would enclose a check for the retail price with my answer they would send it. “Yes! Yes!” pulsed through my temples as I raced to my checkbook.

Another couple of weeks and the bear arrived: brand new; absolutely perfect; charming and never to leave the house again—at least not without all the other household possessions in tow. He got along well with the other animals and was accepted as a substitute. He’s right downstairs—in a house my daughter has never lived in. And to this day, if I should happen to start a sentence with the phrase “What do you think I found?” in conversation with my adult daughter, she’ll answer “Yellow Bear.”