Teddy bears

teddy bears

A Tumblr acquaintance, Wooferstl, posted recently that his childhood teddy bear was lost sometime in the 1990s. In its memory, he bought a life-size Costco teddy bear. He posted this photo of himself with CostcoBear recently:


woofer teddy 1

I know the feeling.

I had a hideously ugly teddy bear when I was a kid. He was stout and had a strange just-been-strangled expression, but I loved him beyond measure.

He lived in my mother’s house for a long time after I left home in the 1970s, but I brought him back to live with me again after her death, and now he sits high up on a bookshelf in my bedroom (with his very own stuffed animal to play with), looking down on the passing scene:

my teddy 2013

He spent a lot of years in my mother’s basement, seeing nothing but her doing the laundry once in a while. Now he sees me getting ready for work, and coming home and changing clothes. This is at least more interesting for him, I hope.

He is full of something like sawdust. He is not cuddly. But he’s my childhood friend. (I think he belonged to one of my siblings, but I’m not sure. He certainly looks ancient.) He was with me in my childhood – he played with me and slept with me – and now he’s with me again, in my twilight years.

I’d like to pass him along to another child, but he’s not much of a toy; he smells funny, and he’s not cuddly (as I said).

He’s aging, just as I am.

I hope that, when my time comes (not anytime soon, I hope), he’ll want to go with me.

I’d like to have him along for the ride.

The face of winter

old man winter

Springtime is back in Providence, and – I don’t know – it never cheers me up. When spring comes, I almost always feel tired and lethargic. There’s a feeling of: Here we go again. And a feeling of: How many times do we have to do this?



Anyway, I have been a little fatigued lately, and it has affected my usual good looks. I took a glance into the mirror at the office the other day, and I gasped: I looked awful. My graying hair was standing up in all directions, and my complexion was pale, and I was hunched over like an invalid. My god, I thought. I’m Old Man Winter.



It’s awful, because I know inside that my spirit is still young. And then I look into the mirror and see a crouching horrible gargoyle looking back at me.



I just passed the age of fifty-five last year, and it made me thoughtful. Partner and I still have a few years together, I hope, before my bones begin to crumble into sawdust, or before the next asteroid hits.



We will stumble on together for a while, at least, in happiness. Every day together is a blessing.



I only hope Partner can endure seeing the face of Old Man Winter first thing every morning for a few years more.




Everyone has treasures put away. I still have some of my early-childhood books, and a big box of (mostly Canadian) pennies. Total worth: not much, really.



But I have a little box in which I keep my real treasures.



One is a stone I found when I was maybe six years old. It’s a perfect spiral made of quartz, and I knew even then that it was extraordinary. I know now that it’s a real fossil: some casting from a long-dead creature that burrowed in the mud. All of my uncles collected rocks, and I accused them (at the age of six!) of planting it so that I could find it, and they all denied it. I think, after all these years, I believe them, because in the rain and mud of Washington state, how could they have planted it and been sure that I’d find it?



Another is a cheap plastic coin I got in a bag of Fritos sometime in the early 1960s. They were doing a space-exploration series; I think I had John Glenn and Alan Shepard too. But I really only liked Laika the Russian space dog. Poor little thing: shot into space, and never seen again. I still have her coin, and I still remember her.



Also a little plastic Bible, about the size of a raisin. If you look into the little lens on the bottom, you can read the Lord’s Prayer. Miraculous!



Also a plastic cigarette, actual size. The filter comes off, and it’s a pen.



All these stupid little things were precious to me in my childhood. I’ve managed to hang onto them for fifty years!



And, at least once a year, I get out the box and check to make sure they’re all still there.



Because they are still precious to me.




I have written about Apollonia and her sister Augusta. There is also a third sister, named (for the purposes of this blog) Agrippina.

(All great comedy groups come in threes. Think of the Ritz Brothers. Think of the Marx Brothers. Think of the Three . . . well, you know who I mean.)

Anyway: “So we’re in the hospital,” Apollonia says. “It’s very late. Agrippina says, ‘Go get me some candy. Licorice. I want licorice.’ I said to her: ‘It’s after midnight. Where in the hell am I going to buy licorice for you?’ And, very calmly, she says: ‘Go to a movie theater.’”

Apollonia and I are silent for a moment. “That’s brilliant,” I said. “I never would have thought of that.”

“Yeah, well,” Apollonia said wearily, “listen to this. I said: ‘You think I’m gonna go out to a movie theater and get you licorice?’ And she says: ‘Yeah. And I want that kind – you know? – with the pieces that are all different shapes. You know. With the little candies stuck to them.’” Apollonia goggled at me. “What in the hell was she talking about?”

“Allsorts,” I said, quick as a flash.

“What?” Apollonia croaked.

I was sitting in front of my desktop computer at the time, so I quickly Googled an image (see above). “Licorice allsorts,” I said. “My favorite. I loved them as a child. Not commonly available. Buy them when you can.”

“Oh my God!” Apollonia moaned. “You know about this stuff too!”

That same day, I went to two CVS locations, and a Bed Bath & Beyond, and a RiteAid, and two other places, and I’m still looking for licorice allsorts. (I’m sure they’re available online, but that’s like shooting fish in a barrel. I want to find them in the wild, in their natural environment.)

When you’re a child, what do you want? Candy. But adults won’t let you have it.

The most wonderful thing about adulthood is that you can buy yourself all the candy and toys you like, and no one can stop you or say no.

I will find licorice allsorts. And I will buy a package for Agrippina, and five or six packages for myself, and maybe some bubble gum for Apollonia (she’s a big Bazooka fan, although she’ll settle for Dubble Bubble).

And we will all be childishly happy.

Running to school


Back to school, kids!



My walk to work takes me past the University’s day-care center, around the time when parents are dropping their children off in the morning: lots of noisy kids, parents driving, parents walking. I like the walking parents and children best; they’re almost always holding hands, which is very sweet.



A few years ago, I saw a father and daughter walking hand in hand toward the center, when all at once the little girl saw someone she knew – some friends, maybe – and let go of her father’s hand, and started running toward the school, excited to join the fun.



How long has it been since you were excited enough about something to run toward it?



Ah well, ho hum. It’s part of the magic of childhood.



We outgrow it.



(Sadly enough.)



Senior discount


The other evening, after one of my old-ladyish treadmill workouts at the Boston Sports Club, I went over to the Eastside Marketplace next door to buy  a rotisserie chicken and a couple of tomatoes. I was still glowing with perspiration from my quasi-workout, and I thought I looked terribly buff and macho.



Imagine my surprise when the checkout girl gave me the senior discount without even asking me for my ID!



This was one of those landmark occasions. Remember the first time you didn’t get carded in a bar? Remember your 21st birthday, or your 30th, or your 40th? This was kind of like that, but slightly more funereal.



Evidently I look old. I employ a lot of college students, and I have come to accept that I am usually older than their parents. (I have also come to accept that I have been working at the university longer than my student employees have been alive. I get a kind of perverse kick out of it, and I think so do they.)



But “senior discount.” Just think about that.



And the cashier didn’t even ask me



To be fair: it was Tuesday, which is “senior discount night” at Eastside Marketplace. The old trout behind me in line had to be at least a hundred and fifty years old. The checker (who looked maybe twenty) made the simple assumption that we were both there to take advantage of the “senior discount.”



And who doesn’t love a discount?



So, on the upside: I saved fifty cents on my rotisserie chicken and hothouse tomatoes.



On the other hand: people look at me and think “He’s old.”



Oh dear dear dear.



No one thinks old people are funny


Apollonia and I were laughing ourselves sick the other day, trying to remember that stupid song that Strawberry Alarm Clock sang back in the 1960s.  “O god,” she croaked.  “I just thought of another one.  Remember Question Mark and the Mysterians?”



“O god,” I groaned.  “What did they sing?”



She Googled it quick as a flash. “’96 Tears,’” she said, and we began hooting with laughter again.  I started to sing: “’I’m gonna cry, cry-cry-cry – “



Suddenly Apollonia stopped laughing and became almost solemn.  “Have you noticed,” she said, “that we just kill one another?”



“No kidding,” I said, wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. “We’re both hysterical.”



“And have you noticed,” she said, “that no one else laughs when we tell our little amusing stories?  Everyone gets very quiet.  They wait for us to calm down.”



“So they don’t get the jokes,” I said. “To hell with them.”  (Actually I didn’t say “To hell with them.”  I was far ruder, if you see what I mean.)



She smiled.  “Yeah,” she said.  “To hell with them.”  (She also used the ruder expression.)



It’s a privilege you gain as you get older: the right to laugh yourself silly over stupid things that kids just don’t understand.  They just haven’t lived long enough.



They’ll figure it out, if they live long enough.



In the meantime: to hell with them!



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