The other day a parcel arrived in the mail. This was exciting as I seldom get packages and when they show up I’m like a kid at Christmas. This particular parcel was somewhat hefty, solid and it came from my cousin. What could she be sending me I thought to myself in complete surprise. Inside was a book, Teddy Bears, with a sticky note attached, “Found this at an op-shop and thought you might like it!” signed by her and her cat with a heart beside their names.
Each evening, while sitting in bed, I read a chapter before going to sleep. As it states in the corner of the front cover, it is “a lively illustrated history of Teddy Bears and their many relatives”. Not only is there historical aspects of how teddy became teddy and the beginnings of teddy makers but also historic tales of individual teddy bears loved by their owners, poems, short stories and all manner of things bear.
Having grown up in the backwoods of Canada I have seen many black bears, some of them close up. They are such beautiful creatures. I can remember one morning in particular, my mother yelled up to me in my attic bedroom and told me to look out my window. To my surprise there was a very large black bear lumbering along in the mist at the top of the hill near the apple trees. I wished it had stayed longer but it was obviously on a mission, headed somewhere. Needless to say I’m rather fond of bears.
I can only recall three teddy bears as a child. The first two were a set, one blue and one pink each with a turn key in the back that could be twisted around to play music. What music I cannot recall. My favourite bear back then however, was Yogi, not after the Yogi of TV fame but after the food, yoghurt, because I loved it so much. Oddly I still remember walking past the bin of bears at the store and picking him up and being madly in love with that bear. I cannot remember if my parents bought it right then or waited until Christmas to give it to me. I’m pretty sure I got it for Christmas that year. I must have been four or five years old.
Anyway, Yogi was a fuzzy, light tan coloured farm bear. He had a pair of blue coveralls and a floppy brimmed red felt hat. He took pride of place in the large doll bed I had. Although I had a few dolls, they really were not my thing. I tended to appropriate my brother’s G.I. Joe for my big Tonka Jeep and that sort of thing so really I was not a girly girl. Whatever happened to Yogi I cannot remember. I wish I had kept him now as he was such a cute little bear.
Inspired by some of the short teddy bear tales in the book, I thought I would talk about my current teddy bears. I have around 30 teddy bears. About ten of them are still in their original packaging. Every so often I take them out and look at them but until I have my own place with a room devoted to ‘me space’, they will remain huddled in the closet, tucked away in containers, waiting for their day.
I started collecting teddy bears quite a while ago, not as a concious decision perhaps, it just sort of escalated from one to another and well, you get the idea. When I was younger I collected mice, not real ones, figurines. However I have not done much with those in a very long while as teddy bears seem to have taken their place. More recently I have started making teddy bears and as I have stated in my bucket list, I have plans to make more.
When I first started to realise I was creating a collection I decided my bears needed names. I am an avid fan of Canadian art so it seemed appropriate to name my bears after Canadian artists. I thus have a bear named Emily, after Emily Carr, a bear named Tom after Tom Thompson, a bear named Varley after Frederick Varley and so on. Some of my bears have no names yet. Others have names that link to a place, not necessarily exactly where I got them but at least close by to where they came from. I have a mouse named Garmisch (okay so the odd mouse still manages to wiggle its way in) and a very special Steiff teddy called Beningbrough or Beni for short.
Oddly, the bear I wish to tell you about is just called Gap. He is one of my cheaper bears, purchased at London Heathrow Airport many years ago. He is my travelling bear, whose job it is to carry keys but I have never had the heart to use him or any of my key chain bears for such daily use and abuse. He is called Gap because he has an underground T-shirt that says “Mind the Gap”. If you have ever travelled the London underground you know what I’m referring to.
Gap teddy is a great travel companion. He is small so he can go anywhere, no one complains and neither does he. He is happy to sit in my hand luggage, come out to check out the views via planes, trains or automobiles and tell the rest of my bears what he has seen on his return. My other bears live vicariously through him for the most part. I say that because mostly they remain tucked away but many of my bears have travelled from various parts of the world either via their purchase overseas or because of my moves from one country to another. When I moved country I’d say a good quarter of my suitcase was full of bears, carefully positioned for maximum storage. I often wonder what the people who scanned my luggage must have thought seeing all those teddy bears in various poses. Even when I move house within country, I pack my bears myself, not even the moving company are allowed to touch my bears. They have to be packed just so. You know, they need breathing room. Of course just like children they are each their own little characters so some tend to fidget, kick and grumble if not given their fair space. They are usually one of the first things to be unpacked as well.
Gap has been quite a few places. He has visited various parts of England, Canada, Australia, Germany, Austria and France as well as travelled through Singapore and Thailand airports. He has passed over the Northwest territory, the equator, both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans just to name a few of his experiences. On our last trip back to England I bought him a new friend, Beni, and got Gap his very own passport. On that particular trip he had an incredible day when he came with me to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Museum and went for a taxi ride in the tail end of the Lancaster bomber, Just Jane. He rode shot gun on my hip and we experienced the bumps over the ground and the sounds of the Merlin engines together. I’d say Gap has a pretty good time of things.
The next time we go somewhere I’ll have to get him to tell his story.