May I direct you to this delightful (and in one or two instances heartbreaking) BBC online magazine article about teddy bears that various men and women have owned and still cherish, whether long lost, or still in their proud possession: see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21367728. I really can relate to this.
I don't think I come across as particularly soft-hearted, but I assure you
that I am one of the most sentimental people you can find, easily moved to
tears whenever childhood matters are mentioned. And especially so if the topic
under discussion is one of those faithful furry toy persons whom one has loved and confided in.
Is this evidence of a weak mind and misdirected emotion? Shouldn’t one be hard, and cast
aside such things as belonging to an era long outgrown, and give all
one's consideration to real people instead? I think not. I think that any love and regard you can give to a special toy is evidence of redeeming qualities of
tenderness and gentleness. So I'm relieved that I still love my teddy bear. It means that I haven't been completely corrupted or embittered. And I feel a bond with everyone else who feels the same.
For these little persons made of fabric are much like us. They grow old as we grow old, and become fragile and vulnerable just like us, and need to be handled with care.
And that care, that concern, is something that needs to be practiced and
developed lifelong. It is all too easy to become selfish and crabby as you grow
So I say that if you have room in your heart to cuddle a teddy bear at
the age of sixty, if this toy friend - above all things - is the item you would
grab first as you fled the burning house, then
there is hope that you will also have the capacity to be just as kind to
others. The love you give to your bear trains you to love and respect real people.
If we could all do that, what a better world this would be. I would go so far as
to suggest that, if you delve into it, you might just find that every ruthless tough guy and spiteful old dame once had the dreadful experience of having their
best-loved toy snatched from them, and cruelly destroyed by a grim or mocking
Do you recall the Orson Welles film, Citizen
Kane? And how the dying Kane, extraordinarily rich, but old and alone and unliked, enigmatically says ‘Rosebud’? The film has acquired its
own mythology, and there have been several theories about what that word
was referring to. But I like the one suggested in the closing sequence, when, after
his death, when unwanted things are being burned, someone throws a child’s sled
onto the fire, a sled that has ‘Rosebud’ and two little flowers painted on it, a
relic of the only time Kane was happy and innocent. There is something of that about all treasured childhood toys. Different people have different preferences. Sleds wouldn't be mine. But a cuddly friend would be.
For me, my own teddy bear is a proper person, and really
the only substantial link left with my childhood. Like me, he is a survivor of
every trauma and upset and disaster that has occurred. We share so much, he and
I, and will no doubt share more. I do hope that if ever I am dragged off to hospital
to die, that Teddy Tinkoes won’t be left to fret about me alone, and that
someone will make sure that he lives on in a loving home after I'm gone.
Here he is, back in 1981:
And here's my favourite shot of him, on Christmas Day 2000:
And this is him in 2012. He's getting older. The sheepdog above him, who answers to the name of Fang, is a much more recent acquisition. (Fang guards my caravan)
And finally a shot of Ted this year, in 2013. (He will be sixty himself in July)
As you can see he's looked pretty threadbare and battered for most of his life. Mum gave him the green eyes and black leather-patch nose, darned his paws and the the soles of his feet, and attended to all the needlework needed to stop him falling apart. She also made the blue pants, with an elasticated waist (just like I need to wear nowadays) and the knitted red jumper and matching scarf.
If you thought that jumper and scarf look a bit footballish, you'd be right. In the mid-1970s, when living in Southampton, I had a set of friends who supported the local team (who then played at The Dell, and not the modern stadium at St Mary's). I had not hitherto been interested in football, but for a brief period my friends' enthusiasm swept me up. In May 1976 Southampton made it to the final of the FA Cup, and actually beat Manchester United by an odd goal at the end of the game, kicked in by a youngster called Bobby Stokes. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1976_FA_Cup_Final. The entire city went wild with joy. I got caught up in it all, including the Saints' triumphal bus tour of the city. Here are two photos I took of that, as they passed through Portswood:
Stirring stuff. We adjourned to the Civic Centre and joined a 60,000-strong crowd there, all waiting for some speech that I've forgotten about now.
The euphoria lasted a long time. And while it was strong, I asked Mum to knit that jumper and scarf for Ted, based on the colours in this contemporary March 1977 shot:
Southampton were now in the quarter final of the European Cup, playing a vital return match against Anderlecht at The Dell, and I had a ticket to attend with my friends. I hadn't been to a real live football match since 1960 or so, when I went to Swansea (or was it Cardiff?) with a local father and son to see a game in the cold and rain. I hadn't wanted to go, and the experience had put me off bigtime. In March 1977, now much older of course, I was happy to try the atmosphere of a football match again. But it was a needle match with several players' errors and what seemed to be a very biased German referee. Anderlecht won. The home crowd was in turn cup-hungry, hopeful, angry (shouts of 'sieg heil' were hurled at the ref), dejected, and then ominously moody as it spilled into Archer's Road after it was all over. My tummy was upset from eating a burger I'd bought at the ground, I was fearful at the state of the toilets, I was disturbed by the shouting and pushing near where we had stood, and very much inclined to escape before any trouble began.
That was the end my brief interest in football. I have never wanted to go to another match again. But Ted retained his smart new clothes, partly because Mum had made them so well, and partly because they were so bright and cheerful. And he wears them to this day. I don't think he'll ever have a different outfit now.
Ted has seen me through many events. He was the person who consoled me when my marriage failed. And I don't think I could have survived the slow crash of my relationship with M--- without him, nor indeed the many low moments of my transition. He is the person left in charge when I am away from home, and when I come in I always say 'Hello, Ted!' So it is when I wake up: 'Good morning, Ted!', and when I go to bed: 'Goodnight, Ted!', always with a fond touch of his head.
He is continuity, a reassurance, and an utterly dependable friend in a life that has sent many moments of worry and fear and sorrow. And he is my companion and mentor in the silent hours when I simply don't know what to do for the best.