Teddy was a two-foot teddy bear from before my earliest memories in childhood who stayed with me almost my entire life. He had cardinal red fur with white hears, nose and paws. I don’t think he was an expensive toy…he made a plastic-y crinkling sound when I squished him and his fur was cheap and stiff and rubbed off in spots. Teddy was the typical toy from the 1970’s when mass production and plastic were all the rage. I have no idea who gave Teddy to me or how he became so important to me. But I have faint memories of loving the bear as my familiar and my closest friend and, in many ways, as an extension of my self that I was already learning was unloveable.
When I look back at how much I loved Teddy, I am also remembering how I treated Teddy and I feel the shame rise up inside of me. When my Little self raged at a world that scared me, I would punch and kick my teddy bear while he continued to grin and look me in the eye, his little crinkling sound his only response to my betrayal. When my sexuality was prematurely triggered by abuse, I would rub myself against Teddy and touch him in his “dirty” places. When my badness became too much to carry alone, I used my young sewing skills to surgically implant goodness into Teddy in way I couldn’t for myself but so desperately wished I could.
By the time I was graduating high school and putting Teddy in an old metal footlocker to be forgotten, his head was precariously wobbly from the number of times I had opened his throat, inserted cotton balls soaked in my mother’s perfume and sewn it back together again. After years in my personal boxing ring of childhood anger, his flattened nose was sunken into his head and his body would bend completely in half because the stuffing in his belly had long since been displaced. Teddy was the holder of my love and trust, the object of my premature sexual explorations, the recipient of my emotions, the carrier of my shame and the holder of my many secrets. He knew everything about me and yet he always kept his eyes ready to meet mine and he held onto his smile…and he never told a soul.
I barely remember throwing him away one night about 4 years ago and thinking it was silly I had kept him for so long. At the time, in that mood, he was just a stinky, crinkly and wobbly toy that took up too much room and didn’t serve a purpose worthy of being brought along. Today, even in my minimalist lifestyle, Teddy has a place within me. I miss him and I carry him with me just as I did for so many years in that old footlocker. He sits in my mind, flopped over and worn out, no longer crinkling but still smiling for me. When I tossed him out, I thought I could throw away the secrets and shame that he carried for me. I’m certain that if Teddy could have talked, he would have told me it would never work…and maybe he would forgive me for thinking it would.