A Tale of Two Teddys
(New York/ Texas/ New Mexico)
Recently, I got a request via e-mail from my new neighborhood association. I haven’t actually joined, but they seem to know where I live. In the past, I have run for cover when approached by neighborhood associations. It always seemed to me that at their worst, they were promoting some agenda that had an exclusionary or discriminatory whiff to it. At their best, they were devoted to making their members engage in ludicrous, herd-mentality buffoonery in the name of civic pride. We once had a charming old house in the country, where the neighborhood association’s big annual event was a pirate party in support of the local Chamber of Commerce. (“Come As You AGRRRRRRR!” read the invites.) We sold that house. No one over the age of ten who is not Johnny Depp has any business dressing as a pirate.
My new neighborhood association sent me a pretty okay request, though. They wanted residents to put a teddy bear in the window, where passersby, specifically child passersby could see them. The kids could have a remote scavenger hunt, count the bears, and have bear-hunting contests. The theory was that kids would know there were also people inside, thinking of them. The Teddy-in the-window tradition is one of the sweeter by-products of the age of Corona, and the Teddy in the window phenomena is sweeping the globe. So I was perfectly happy to comply with this request. As long as no one wanted me to dress Pooh as a pirate.
In this house, there are two Bears In Residence (Hereinafter known as B.I.R.S) in the window. (Actually, there are three Bears in the House, if you count me before morning coffee.) One Teddy was mine, a circa late 1960’s classic Pooh Bear. The other was my son’s, a 1999 new-styled Disney Pooh. Like many things in America, Pooh (though originally British) greatly enlarged and expanded in the three decades between my childhood and my son’s. The two Teddys share very different biographies. Mine is known as Wild West Pooh. He grew up with me in Austin and Santa Fe, and summered on a ranch in West Texas. He was charged by bulls, lunged at by rattlers, and fell off horses and tractors. He has a mended rip in his behind where he was snagged climbing through a barbed wire fence and his left ear was perfectly re-attached by my grandmother when a Shetland pony named Diablo bit it off. He listened to coyotes and wolves howl every night. He is a pioneer in TBTT (Teddy Bear Trauma Therapy.) He is nicknamed Woodstock Pooh by other members of the family, and though he did not actually attend the concert, he sure looks like he rolled around in the mud and partied with Jefferson Airplane. He saw the first moonwalk, heard Caesar Chavez speak, marched with the UFW, got gassed at a UT anti-Vietnam demonstration, saw the events detailed in The Milagro Beanfield War, and was a guest at many Pueblo and Navaho dances and feasts and Santa Fe Fiestas.
My son’s Teddy Bear, (Westchester Pooh) has lived a much quieter, more genteel existence, though Wild West Bear and I have tried to politicize him. Still, Westchester Pooh is exceedingly well-read and a total whiz at technology. His greatest accomplishment was watching over the isolette of his boy, who spent 64 days in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care unit. That preemie boy is now a six-foot Che Guevara look alike. He is the darling of his philosophy department, a nationally recognized classics scholar, an accomplished musician and an inveterate gamer. Well done, Westchester Pooh.
As I walk around my neighborhood, I look into windows and think that every bear tells a story. Each one depicts someone’s journey. And as we are homebound, it’s a good time to think about the marvelous journeys we’ve had, and dream about the ones yet to come.
About the author: Thank God Elyse Pollack decided to quit Law to become a writer! She’s a prolific storyteller who has been working on a few stories simultaneously over the last few years. She grew up in Texas and New Mexico, but now lives in Westchester County, NY, where she takes classes at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. Like myself, she is enthusiastic about Latin American Literature and will never get tired of reading Gabriel García Marquez.