June 9, 2016 by Katia
Blue Bear’s fur is pale blue, its colour and texture immediately categorize him as a washing machine veteran. His tail is short but long enough for little fingers to clasp. The fur on the tail is a bit more stiff and rigid suggesting frequent touch. Clinging. On his belly there’s a fading needlework inscription in light blue, it’s in Hebrew and it reads A prince is born and nothing more, as if everything else – the waiting, the jubilation – is implicit.
In the small family that I come from, consisting of mother, father, grandmother, great aunt and one single daughter – me, all of us scattered across three different continents, the birth of the first great grandchild was nothing short of a historical event. Blue Bear was purchased in Israel by my great aunt and travelled to North America in my mother’s suitcase when she arrived here to greet her grandchild. This was his first of many travels.
I don’t remember exactly when Blue Bear morphed from a description into a name. What I do know is that neither one of us named him that. It’s almost as if he came into our lives with a name, just as any other personified character would.
Blue Bear served as a best friend during a time when my toddler son’s heart asked for friendships but reality didn’t produce much. He attended numerous “Bring Your Stuffy to School” days despite the fact that the mere use of the term “stuffy” in relation to Blue Bear made us cringe. It felt like a tactless, if not darn right offensive, reduction completely overlooking Blue Bear’s significance, personal traits and role in our child’s life. Equally tactless was the pairing of Blue Bear and a washing machine in the same sentence. Does YOUR best friend and life companion take their baths in one? The cover up became challenging as Blue Bear, quite literally, had his hands in every pie and was always in need of a good wash. Blue Bear was a silent testimony of our son’s daily minutiae. He would loyally absorb spilled milk, forgivingly accept Ketchupy kisses and sacrifice the plush fur of his tail to endless grasping, fiddling and often sucking moments before his friend, Ben, would fall asleep.
Blue Bear was the protagonist in many of our son’s stories and a constant conversation staple. He had a biography, opinions, suggestions and tons of character. It wasn’t long before we, the other members of the family and close circle of friends, started contributing to the elevation of Blue Bear’s status into an almost mythical one. Sometimes when our son was fearful at bedtime we needed Blue Bear to become a superhero, a bodyguard and a protective amulet. Sometimes it hurt that we were so far away and I wanted my son to feel the people that I was growing up with, so I would tell him how my great aunt, Baba* Nina, is the kindest person I know and how she planted a seed of her love and kindness in Blue Bear when she bought him and that this is why Blue Bear is so dear and loved and loving, and I started believing in this myth that I created myself.
Blue Bear travelled with us, locally and internationally, never in the trunk of the car (a mistake, no – a crime, which was only committed once) and on their short and forced separation periods on kindergarten days, my son would often wonder what his companion was doing or thinking.
Relationships change as people grow up and so did our son’s relationship with Blue Bear. With the appearance of actual real live friends Blue Bear became less of an active contributor, but his presence – at bedtime, trips and Bring Your Stuffy to School days – was still a given.
Last month our son turned seven. He shed his endearing little boy lisp and started pronouncing the letter “s” correctly. He simultaneously seeks independence and the approval of his friends. He is still afraid of the dark and believes in certain kinds of magic but now he also trades Pokemon cards, fakes crushes and keeps his ears open in the schoolyard in attempt to pick up swear words. We recently travelled to Italy with our new seven year-old and didn’t take Blue Bear with us. As my son was settling into his own bed upon return, my husband drew his attention to the forsaken friend who sat patiently by our son’s pillow.
“Look, Blue Bear’s here,” he said. “He missed you”.
“I don’t sleep with it anymore” was my son’s reply.