The Teddy Bears
My then boyfriend wanted a teddy bear to keep him company while I went out of town for Thanksgiving. I searched the entire mall for the 'perfect' teddy bear. Dad had picked me up from work one night and I commented that I needed to find the perfect bear.
He asked what qualities the perfect bear had to have. It had to be soft and huggable. It had to have a face that just cried out 'squeeze me'. It had to have a belly, too. I'd know it when I found it, but I hadn't-yet. Then, a week later, in my own department at work, the perfect bear showed up. Crisis averted, I bought the bear.
A year later, my sister was hit by a moped and broke her collarbones. She would be confined to bed for at least a month. I no longer lived at home, and once again, I was searching for the perfect bear. This time, it needed to be a bigger bear, so that Giggles could use the bear as a pillow. Once again, I found the right bear.
As was typical, Dad noticed. He always noticed that sort of thing. That Christmas, I got a bear. This bear met all the criteria I'd mentioned: cute, soft, cuddly, with a belly and an expressive face.
The following Christmas, I had moved to Maryland. I didn't get back to New York until New Year's, but there was a bear again. After everything else had been unwrapped and we were kibbitzing, Dad nonchalantly said "oh, I forgot something" and brought out the box with the bear.
In 1989, I got lucky, Dad and Giggles came down to Maryland for Christmas. When you work retail, leaving town for the holiday doesn't happen. We had opened presents, had a good day hanging out and then Dad asked if I had ice cream for the apple pie. He went out to Sheetz to get a half gallon of Breyers, and when he came back in, there was a bear in hand.
Once again, Dad and Giggles made the trip down for Christmas, 1990. At some point, he had an excuse to go out to the car (film? batteries? not sure which) and he got me again. He walked in with a big, grey bear with a bow tie. They told a tale of a very old man working the register at Macy's when they'd bought it who gave the bear a big hug and told it "I know you're going to a good home!" as he put it in the huge shopping bag.
At the time, I didn't know that it would be my last Christmas with my Dad. The last time I'd see him was in mid January, when my then husband and I traveled to New York during a blizzard. We had dinner at another sister's house and my toddler nephew had an adorable bear that Gramps had given him. I was quite taken with this bear, and commented to my sister that my nephew was probably going to have a HUGE bear collection.
Two weeks later, my Dad had a heart attack on the job. Those bears would get a lot of hugs in the following months.
Giggles and I had to go empty my Dad's room. He was renting a room from this nice couple, but they needed the income from renting it-so we girls went over and methodically went through things and decided what we'd keep, what would go to Salvation Army and what we could pass on to others (mainly the tons of hiking gear he'd accumulated).
When we got to the closet, there were two boxes on the floor. Gift boxes. I remember passing them out to Giggles and she stopped me, saying "No, those are yours." Confused, I asked what she meant. She told me to open the boxes.
In one, the same Land's End bear that I'd admired at my sister's a few weeks before (the box was postmarked before my visit). In the other, a Macy's box, a Paddington bear. It was January and my Dad already had the bears in place for the following Christmas.
Thank you, Daddy.