Daily Prompt: What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?
As a child, I had a number of beautiful, handcrafted wooden toys that I loved to play with. I fondly remember a rotary-style red telephone with a little bell that would ding when I hung up the earpiece. I had a caterpillar that was made of balls of wood and rope and metal that would wobble as I pulled it along behind me. There was a wooden dog on orange plastic wheels that did the same. And countless rattles – a wooden handle with coloured wooden balls swinging by short ropes from its top, a red wooden cube with a little silver bell rolling around inside it. The list goes on.
Most of these I still have with me. My son played with them and, now that he is older, they are housed in a box in the basement. Memories, possibly toys for future generations.
But I recall my most treasured toys were my collection of stuffed teddy bears. I was an only child and they were my companions. I used to proudly count them. I think I remember their numbers swelling to about 20 at one point.
My mother still has many of them, and I have two.
One is Growly Bear, a very realistic black bear, whose stuffing seems to have been squeezed a bit thin.
The other is Little Teddy, a small, beige Merrythought bear with a bell in one ear. My Great Aunt gave him to me when I was born and he was my constant companion through much of my early years. My son has now claimed him as his favourite “stuffy.” I’m touched that of all the stuffies he has, Little Teddy is his favourite.
He has no hair left. I don’t actually remember what he looked like with hair. I think by the time I was 3, he was completely bald.
His ears are lopsided – I recall my mother sewing one back on while we were on holiday somewhere down south. I may have been 5.
His stuffing is almost non-existent. His nose is wearing thin and I’ve darned it. It’s amazing he still has his eyes.
The question of the day is, do I see a connection between my life now and my favourite childhood toy?
Not in a concrete sense, no, although perhaps yes as far as remaining consistent and constant in my interests.
But I was just thinking this morning about the repeated appearance of bears of late in the art that grabs my attention, in my dreams and in my writing.
I’m not sure why this is.
Wikipedia posits that, “With their tremendous physical presence and charisma, [bears] play a prominent role in the arts, mythology and other cultural aspects of various human societies.”
This is perhaps why bears are everywhere – as popular children’s toys, in famous stories such as Winnie the Pooh and Goldilocks, the source of names of towns and sports teams across the world, and in connection to what is perhaps the most prominent constellation in the sky.
It is also perhaps why bears have been revered, worshipped and feared throughout human history. According to Wikipedia, bear worship is a religious practice found in many North American and North Eurasian ethnic circumpolar regions and may have been practiced as far back as the Middle paleolithic period amongst Neanderthal societies. Bears bones have been found in caves and are featured as carved totems throughout many northern cultures. Often, they were believed to be earthly manifestations of a tribe or clan’s ancestors.
There are also a number of Celtic deities associated with the bear and the bear was the symbol of King Arthur.
It makes sense that the cultures that came in contact with the majestic and terrifying animals as part of their daily life in the wilderness would see them in a mystical and respectful light, just as they deified other terrifying yet beautiful aspects of nature around them.
But what is it about the bear that draws me, albeit somewhat unconsciously?
I believe it is in part its sheer strength and its protective nature. But it is more than this. There is something special in the intriguing duality of the figure of a bear. It is able to be, on the one hand, that strong and terrifying creature that has awed man for millennia and, on the other, so loving and furry and cute that its image has been made into a universally cherished child’s toy.
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