In the Epiphany chapter of my book, I wrote, “My teddy bear still sits on my bed during the day.”
I told how I had gotten Teddy when I was two, how I had slept with this patchily fuzzy bear nearly every night of my life.
I told how Teddy came to grade-school sleepovers with me and to summer camp all the way through high school, how I took him with me to college and how, on my quarter abroad, he traveled around the British Isles crammed into my backpack.
I told how in my horrible first year out of college, Teddy was one of the few stable things in my life.
And I told how one day in April of that year, I sat in the lunchroom at one of the many offices at which I temped during those months. As I ate my soup and read from Richard Foster’s book Freedom of Simplicity, I came upon his suggestion that I, the reader, let go of the possession I held most dear. Not consider letting it go, but actually let it go.
Like a knife plunging down from Heaven, I suddenly had a terrifying sense that God was asking me to let go of Teddy. My stomach clenched into a knot. I burst into tears. I quickly gathered my things and fled the lunchroom in fear and humiliation.
I could not give Teddy up. I would not give Teddy up.
The thought of him sitting for months on a dusty shelf in a thrift shop with a bunch of cheap plastic toys and then being thrown in the garbage made me physically ill. And no one I knew had a child young enough to want a patchy old bear. I wasn’t sure such a child existed anyway — who besides me would love this tattered stuffed animal?
In the end, I gave him to my dear friend who was moving to Spain for a year. She understood what a huge gift he was. I couldn’t have given him to anyone who didn’t.
She brought him safely home, and for years – until this year, actually – he sat on my bed during the day.
He no longer sits there.
I’m not sure when or how it happened. All I know is that Jane began to play with him when we’d sit on my bed, me nursing a baby (sometimes two), her chattering to me, dancing Teddy around as she talked and sang.
She kept circling back to him, playing with him, cuddling him while I nursed the babies. One night, in February or maybe March, she asked me. “Mama, may I sleep with Teddy tonight? Please?”
I thought of those months of anxiety when I was 22, when I feared Teddy would languish in a thrift shop because no child would love him, patchy and falling-apart and slightly sad-looking, and I smiled at Jane, my heart brimming in my eyes. “Of course, sweetheart. I’d love for you to sleep with Teddy.”
She took him with her to bed that night, and every night since, her body curled over him and her tiger, Jojo. She chose Teddy and Jojo as the “friends” she would take with her on our road trip. When she left Teddy in the car one night, she cried until Doug took her outside to get him.
“Mama,” Jane says when I’ve kissed her good night. “You can’t leave yet. Teddy wants to give you a hug.” She fumbles under her covers, untucking the blankets I’ve just tucked in, extricating Teddy from Jojo, who both lie squashed beneath her chest.
She holds him up to me. She moves his arms to squeeze my neck. “He loves you, Mama,” she says. “I love you, too.”
She pulls Teddy back to her chest, tucks him under the covers beside her, wraps her arm around him. “I love Teddy, Mama. I love him so much.”
I nod in the dark. I know. I know.