Are you an arctophile? Perhaps you don’t know what one is; neither did I until very recently, but if you have a great fondness for teddy bears then you can take on the title. I came across the word arctophile when reading Jessica Redland’s blog and books. She used to own a bear shop, (how cool is that?) and one of the shops in her fictional town of Whitsborough is called Bear With Me.
Bears have featured in children’s story books for generations. Daughter enjoyed Michael Bond’s Paddington stories but whilst I do have a fondness for the marmalade sandwich eating ursine, my own early years were dominated by the wonderfully innocent Pooh, and with his simplified view of the world and wise words he remains a great favourite of mine, but only in his intended format. Shepard’s original drawings of A.A. Milne’s gentle soul and his friends are a million miles from the garish Disney cartoon depiction which are probably better known by today’s youngsters.
My first encounter with teddy bears was shortly after I was born though of course I have no memory of meeting them, but those two bears were my constant companions all through growing up and they still live with me.
Unimaginatively called Big Ted and Little Ted (creativity was not my mother’s strong point), they would not have been expensive bears and with several bare patches, a sure sign of much cuddling, have seen better days but still remain much loved.
As a small child I’d look forward every Christmas to the latest Rupert annual and I bought them for my own children for years. I’m not certain that Rupert is really a candidate for arctophilia since he’s not really a teddy bear, but more of an actual bear. What was that? Not real? Shame on you! As I’ve explained to my husband on many occasions, bears do have feelings, you know! When my dad died when I was 24, I was given his car and with it the tiny Rupert figurine (about two and a half inches tall) that had been moved from car to car. I’ve no idea where it came from – probably a toy of my younger brother’s but Dad had held onto it for years. Rupert has been in every car I’ve had since and I like to think that he and my dad keep me safe.
When my younger son was small, all he wanted for Christmas was Holly Bear. He’d seen Holly in Woolworths and developed a strong urge to own him. Every time we were in town he’d insist that we went to look but one day he wasn’t there and Son was distraught! I had to tell him that Father Christmas was sure to know how much he wanted him and had probably done his Christmas shopping in Woolworths! Of course he had, and on Christmas morning we had one very happy boy.
Daughter, like me had two special bears. The first was the now faded Midnight (yes, you guessed, the one on the left). Unlike my boys who had been good sleepers (a hint of the rose tinted specs there?), Daughter did not sleep through the night until she was nineteen months old. From the age of about one year old she’d haul herself up by the bars of her cot shortly after we’d fallen asleep and fling Midnight across the floor. Then she’d begin to shout. “Nit-nite, Nit-nite”…on and on it went until we got up and lay them both down again. This process was repeated at least twice more in the early hours. We tried not putting him in the cot but she was distraught. As she got older and progressed to a bed so Midnight continued to be her bedtime companion now joined by her brother’s cast off Holly Bear. They still live on her bed here at home, both having recently had a smart change of clothing.
When Daughter was nine her school library started selling postcards and each day she’d save the few pence left over from her lunch money until she had enough to buy a card which she would give to me. Each one came from a series of bear pictures and I got my favourite laminated to use as a bookmark. Twenty five years later I still use it. How precious are those possessions that would mean nothing to anyone else.
My children always had lots of books and they were read to regularly but I made stories up too. Daughter loved the one about Barnaby Bear (the gist of which I’ll recount below). One Christmas long after she had grown out of bedtime stories I was in Debenhams and saw a bear which perfectly fitted the picture of the barnaby that we’d conjured up together. I couldn’t resist. After all, getting on for 14 might be too old for Mummy’s made up tales but you’re never too old for a bear. She knew immediately who he was. Recently Daughter acquired a delightful three and half year old stepdaughter and we’ve agreed that Barnaby should move to Bedfordshire to be with them. He’ll be making his way there soon along with a new wardrobe of clothes. And that, in case you wondered when I mentioned it in an earlier post, is why I’ve recently been knitting teddy trousers!
Barnaby: a very short version of a story of varying length dependent on what time daughter went to bed! Barnaby Bear lived in Mr Zippo’s zoo. It was a very small zoo with only five animals so it didn’t make much money so Mr Zippo decided to close it down and go and live in Australia. He visited all the other zoos in town asking them to take one of his animals. They took one each but no-one had need of a bear so Mr Zippo gave Barnaby his bus fare and told him that he’d have to find a new home by himself. Barnaby stayed on the bus until his money ran out. Still with no home a little tear rolled down his cheek as he snuggled down under a hedge for the night. In the morning he peeped out and saw a little girl looking out of the window in the house opposite. She waved to him and he waved back with a damp paw. Mummy said that the bear could come and live with them and they all lived happily ever after. The little girl was, of course, my daughter