On a bookshelf behind my desk, out of sight unless you know where to look, sits a toy koala bear. He's old, dusty, and faded. The hair on his ears is matted. His eyes are scratched, and the tan felt of one eyelid has peeled off. The plastic pear he wears as a nose needs to be glued back on. Again. And yet his grin remains. A tad sardonic maybe--not surprising, given the degree of abandonment he's put up with. But there's real bonhomie, too. Good-natured patience. I'm here, that grin seems to say. Whenever you remember.
Is there anything as sad as a forgotten once-beloved toy? These cast-offs speak of lost childhoods, changing priorities, the ephemeral nature of our attachments, even the ones that feel, at the time, forged in steel. Most of all, I suppose, these little personalities -- for who can deny them that bit of humanity? -- remind us of the selves we've left behind.
His name is Beary. He slept in the crook of my arm for years and years, stood watch over the kingdom of my bedroom while I, its omnipotent god and ruler, met the obligations of school and ballet and basketball. He was never a toy in the strictest sense of the word; he rarely played a part in my mini-operas of fairies and princesses and pirates and damsels in distress saved by magic (and their own wits... I was already a feminist under all those pink tulle frills). No, Beary--from his arrival, when I was maybe 6 or 7--was always a companion rather than a playmate. A kindred soul (my first). A guardian angel, maybe, without the religious and/or protective connotation.
He shared sleeping space with a few other darlings, but while those came and went, Beary stayed. Beary was the one that came along (carry-on; never checked baggage) on a three-month trip to Europe. Beary was the sole carry-over during that harsh marshland of childhood-to-adulthood; I cried my first bitter tears of heartbreak into his pudgy belly, and when all but the most significant toys had either been given away or put into storage, he always had pride of place, either by my bedside or on my desk.
Over the years, I've lost many things that hurt: love letters, books, posters, postcards, photo albums with my whole childhood and adolescence in them. And Beary. Moving on requires jettisoning things we're not ready to leave behind. I've learned to let go, because--well, because holding on does no one any good.
Last year, when I was in Mexico to renew my passport, my mother came to my bedroom as I was packing for my pre-dawn flight and said, "I have a surprise for you." She produced Beary, recently laundered, grinning that Hey You grin of his. "I didn't have time to fix his nose," she said, shoving him into my arms too fast, as if afraid maybe I'd use the falling bit of plastic as a reason to reject him.
I left behind a kilo package of tortilla corn flour in order to make him fit. Carry-on, of course, and screw the weird looks I got from Customs. Beary doesn't travel in cargo.
The #Cherished blogfest celebrates objects that pull on the heartstrings of memory. If you enjoyed this post, visit the other participating blogs--and join up with your own story of a cherished object of your own. The linky list is open until the end of the day tomorrow (Sunday). And a big round of applause for #Cherished hosts Damyanti, Dan Antion, Paul Ruddock, Peter Nena, and Sharukh Bamboat!