Steady Teddy by
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[Warning: This story is about as prosaic as they come. Insomniacs particularly welcomed.]

As a little kid, my “can’t leave home without it” was a teddy bear.  And its name?  Teddy.  My older brother Tom dumped on me for that name but, as some may recall from our recent pet names story, he named our Collie “Collie,” so he is the last person who had any standing to complain.  I do remember at some point learning about the whole Teddy Roosevelt/teddy bear connection and thinking that that was all pretty neat, but Teddy’s naming, such as it was, pre-dated that knowledge and was the product solely of my youthful lack of imagination.

Teddy’s one defining feature was that he had only one arm; the other one having been chewed off at some early stage.  (The featured image is not “my” Teddy but, through the wonders of googling, one can simply search under “one-armed teddy bears” and immediately find a suitable image.)  I don’t recall exactly how Teddy lost his arm, but I would suspect that Collie had something to do with it.  There would certainly be some poetic justice in that.  And yes; Tom also gave me a hard time about having such a mangy looking teddy bear but, again, I wasn’t listening to any of his criticism on this either.  Jealousy maybe?  Well, he had his own damn stuffed animals.

In any event, I dutifully took Teddy everywhere with me.  Indeed, I cannot recall even one time when I forgot to bring him, so readers will be spared any such desperate/tragic/pathetic/humorous (choose one or more) anecdotes about recovering him.  In fact, as I gaze upon my navel and consider what my relationship with Teddy may say about me as a fully-formed adult, my two thoughts are that he taught me about responsibility — i.e., never, ever forget to bring him with me — and, dare I suggest, about sympathy for those with disabilities.

And, as I ponder this even further, Teddy probably taught me, a natural lefty, to use my right hand.  For I was a constant thumb sucker until I was about five.  As a result, any perambulation by me required Teddy to be held in my right hand, while my left thumb was firmly planted in my mouth.  More generally, I acquired the ability to do many other important things with my right hand — like write and draw and throw a ball — that originally felt natural only with my (otherwise engaged) left hand.  So thanks for ambidexterity too, dear Teddy!

(This image isn’t of me — note that the right thumb is being sucked — but you get the idea.  This would have been a pretty standard pose.)

  • *               *              *

Fast forwarding to my current “can’t leave home without it” phase, I am afraid I remain equally prosaic, and expect to hear a similar answers from other Retro-ists.  It’s my damn iPhone.  What can I say in my defense? As well stated — albeit in a very different context — in Brokeback Mountain:

However, when discussing this question with my perspicacious wife, she immediately asked, “Well, what about your mask, too?”  Brilliant  point — and also true.  But that is one “can’t leave home without it” that I am happily in the process of quitting right now.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin


Characterizations: funny, moving

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I think being attached to your sweet, shabby teddy bear was very typical for a little tyke, John. Having Teddy with you gave you a sense of comfort I suspect. Probably more than teaching you to care about those who have disabilities.

    I had (still have, tucked away in a drawer), a stuffed animal loved so well that his joints are loose, his fur is stripped bare in various spots, but Spotty went to camp with me every summer (he didn’t come on every car ride, I was probably seven when my grandfather won him in a bingo contest) and was on my childhood bed until I married. Like The Velveteen Rabbit, I loved him until he became “real”. Perhaps Teddy was the same for you?

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Betsy. I certainly understood my attachment to Teddy — as well as to my thumb — as a comforting pal; it is just not a terribly original attachment. It sounds as if Spotty (a better name than Teddy) was of similar comfort to you for many years. And, of course, the more and longer they are loved, the more threadbare they become. No wonder there are doll hospitals.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Your Teddy sounds a bit like my “Lou monkey” (actually a blue sailor-suited cloth monkey–go figure), which I haven’t had the heart to throw out yet, as it continues to crop up in unpacked boxes from move to move.

  3. Suzy says:

    Great story about Teddy, and nothing wrong with that name. Molly got a lamb from FAO Schwarz as a gift when she was born and named it Lambie. (Or maybe we named it Lambie, since she obviously couldn’t talk when she was born.) She still packs Lambie when she goes on trips! After 25 years, you will not be surprised to hear that it is not still the original Lambie, but a successor. Maybe you could still get another Teddy and rip one arm off (tell people it is for your potential grandchildren).

  4. Marian says:

    Aww, John, how sweet. I can see how attached you were to Teddy. I had “Bruno,” who was very tiny and sweet. Bruno, alas, is long gone but fondly remembered. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. So sweet John to think of you as a little boy with your teddy!
    It made me think of Christopher Robin carrying Winnie the Pooh by a leg with his head bumping along the floor!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your story about Teddy, John. I’m sure you did learn some good adult traits by embracing your sweet, one-armed Teddy. I also praise your parents for indulging your attachment. Mine never did, but I let my kids hang on to their (as we call them in the early childhood business) transitional objects. My youngest even snuck her blankie to Duke, only to discover her roommate had a motley stuffed animal hidden in her belongings.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Laurie. And yes, even though I doubt they were conscious of it, my parents clearly embraced “developmental” child raising concepts. As you well know, that simply means that kids develop differently and, by and large, parents and teachers shouldn’t sweat it or try to put things on a rigid timeline.

  7. Wow, John, the labyrinthian implications stemming from a one-armed bear that taught you ambidexterity. It boggles the mind. I’m also boggled by the assumption (probably wrong) based on the photograph, that Teddy the teddy bear still hangs with you — from his left arm, of course. I hope you don’t watch enough television to have seen the insurance company ad featuring a native Bostonian peddling “wet teddy bears” from a hot dog stand. Teddy has been emulated for television.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Charles, but you give me far too much credit for boggling. This is just a simple story about a (very) simple boy and his simple teddy bear. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, right?

      And yes; I’ve seen that wet teddy bear commercial. Yet I have no idea of what that, or any of the Liberty Mutual, commercials mean. An emu? A guy who dresses straight out of the 70’s? THIS is what boggles.

      • Thanks, John, you pulled a hearty guffaw outta me with your cigars and teddy bear. Teddy, bears, Emus, Aussie gekkos, disembodied motorcyclists — I take it there must be stiff competition for insurance companies.

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