On our first Christmas in the first home we owned (our fourth Christmas in Florida), a co-worker gifted each of our children with a stuffed bear. She handed the smaller package to our youngest child, Ally. Matthew waited patiently for his younger sister to unwrap her package, taking delight in showing her how to press the belly button on the little fellow. A holiday carol played. When Matthew unwrapped his somewhat larger package, a simple ribbon adorned his bear, instead of the festive tartan plaid vest and bow tie worn by Ally’s bear. Ally reached out and christened Matt’s toy “Bearsy!”
As children do, they swapped presents and both bears sat beneath our Christmas trees for years to come. Little bear eventually lost his bow tie, and who knows what happened to the vest, or when the carols stopped playing. As the older child, our son lost interest in little bear early on, but Ally had love enough for both, as well as all the stuffed animals to come. She never slept or traveled without a bear, finding comfort in her dreams and waking moments.
Only Bearsy survives. I found him this summer in a bin of clothes and shoes Ally gave me her okay to donate when I cleaned out closets. With his coat worn smooth, his nose shined, and new satin ribbons tied round his throat, he once again sits beneath our Christmas tree. Perhaps, he will strike up a friendship with the little bear ornament we picked out years ago, an echo of old friends. Ally won’t be home for Christmas this year, but Matthew will be here to help celebrate and reminisce about Christmases past, and a little blue-eyed girl with blonde curls who loved her bears.