We have three children in our family: a son, a daughter and a little pink bear named Teddy.
He (she?) has been my daughter’s constant companion for as long as she can recall — and even before.
Teddy has seen better days. He and my daughter are both 8, you see, which must be old for a stuffed bear.
Just 3 at the time, my son walked into the hospital room, clutching the two toys, and saw my daughter lying in my lap swaddled in blankets. “Is she still in your tummy?” he asked in wonder. He must have thought she had poked her head out to see him.
My daughter didn’t take to Teddy in her first few months, focusing on more important tasks like eating, crying and spitting up. But by her first birthday, they were attached at the hip.
(Guilty control-freak mom confession: Her 1-year-old picture has a different pink bear in it. Teddy was dirty, and the other bear was smaller and pinker, which I thought would look better in the photo ... yeah, pretty stupid.)
We never pushed it, but somehow, without knowing the special connection to her brother, she chose Teddy as her favorite from the hundreds of stuffed animals piled up in our house.
Lots of animals have made their way into her inner circle over the years — Build-a-Bears, Webkinz, lambs, ponies and puppies — which we painstakingly placed around her bed in the proper order every night. But no one else had Ted’s staying power.
He’s been with her through the terrible 2s, the transition to preschool and kindergarten, various illnesses, family trips, play dates and sleepovers.
He’s endured endless photo sessions and playtimes, dutifully wearing sunglasses, a crown or whatever else she dreamed up. We have photos of Teddy in shades, Teddy with the American Girl dolls, Teddy in a Cardinals’ World Series baseball shirt. We even have videos of Ted. He doesn’t say much, but he always has the same kind smile.
He has survived backyard mudfests, fingernail polish and multiple baths in the washer.
He was once left behind at a Chicago hotel, which we thankfully realized before we hit the interstate. When we called to see if the maid had found anything in our room, the front desk clerk (obviously a parent) said, “You mean a little pink teddy bear?”
We also forgot him at home one summer when we went to Minnesota. This time we didn’t realize it until Wisconsin, so we bought a substitute “Hello Kitty” at the Mall of America. It wasn’t quite the same.
Teddy is her friend, her confidante, the one she runs to hug when we get cross with her or she bumps her head or someone hurts her feelings. He always understands.
The night before my daughter turned 3, I woke up to the sound of her getting sick. She threw up every half-hour, for several hours. The next day it stopped, but her stomach still hurt. I called the nurse, who assured me lots of viruses were floating around. But something wasn't right. I decided to take her to the pediatrician the next morning.
He suspected it might be appendicitis, but it’s extremely rare for a child so young, and she was still walking around.
A CAT scan showed her appendix had ruptured. She was whisked into surgery and ended up being hospitalized for a week.
I was with her almost constantly, and my husband brought movies, food, balloons and several dozen stuffed animals to her hospital room, including the Seven (life-sized) Dwarfs who had been my son’s companions as a toddler.
Nothing made her happy. She glared at the doctors, nurses and blood technicians, never crying but never speaking, either. She can be fierce.
All she wanted was Ted. The nurses tucked him in beside her at night. She developed a habit of running his tag through her fingers until it became a string. Except for surgery, she didn’t let go of him the entire time she was there.
So you can see we’re all kind of attached to him.
Ted has gotten progressively skinnier and paler over the years. My husband frets every time I wash him. I’ve had to repair a hole in his neck, but it’s already ripping again. We need a professional seamstress/bear surgeon.
Once in awhile we talk about going through our old toys to donate to charity. The first time I mentioned it, my daughter blanched and said, “Do I have to give away Teddy?”
No, I told her, not as long as I have a breath left in me.
A friend sent me a column once about a girl who had a stuffed “Doc” the dwarf that she loved with all her heart. One day, she just didn’t need him anymore, and her mom grieved over the little Doc sitting alone on her pillow.
I can’t imagine my daughter outgrowing Teddy. In my mind, he’ll end up like Reginald the Bunny in the “Aunt Dimity” mystery series. With dark eyes that gleam with wisdom or humor, depending on the situation, Reginald helps Lori, the mystery-solver, figure everything out.
Pretty much like Ted.
Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact Julie (or Ted) at 351-5226, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/jawurth.