Sitting in a dark room full of strangers, my arms wrapped around the warm comfort of my popcorn. Mark Wahlberg and Ted spring to life on the screen in front of me, giving every adult in the room the opportunity to, unashamedly, go back to those times when Ted was your best friend. When Ted was alive. They move through puberty and adulthood together, even breaking in to that unforgettable song; The Thunder Buddy Song. You laugh with your friends, but are almost disgusted that, unfortunately, its all make believe.
But for those few hours in the movie theatre, you were a kid again. You were in those magical memories where you could do whatever you wanted, be whoever you wanted to be and better still – the only thing you had to worry about was school, and if you were getting a Happy Meal that Saturday. You rush into work eager to tell anyone that will listen about what you seen in the cinema the previous night and you ramble off the various scenes that had you split sideways in your chair from laughing. That they just have to go see it. What you don’t tell them however, is about the little brown bear sitting in your room at home.
Maybe he sits on your bed, every night. Apparently, my Ted was never allowed off my bed because I was petrified that anything would happen to him. Or maybe your Ted is the type of bear that lives in the attic in a box, buried with the rest of your childhood artefacts. Or maybe your Teddy is now handed down to your own son or daughter. Either way, you won’t ever forget the memories that are hand stitched into his fabric, now stained and battered and torn and un-new; like you. Your war wounds in sync.
I feel I have shed so much of my inhibitions and being honest on here with you, that it doesn’t shame me to say that my Teddy still takes pride of place on my bed in my parents house. I was given Teddy when I was almost 2 years old by my now late Grandmother May. From 2 years old he was shoved under my arm and there he stayed. I was so protective of my Ted. I can remember going on my first trip to Dublin Zoo with my Aunt and cousins. I remember being so excited about it but I was nervous. Getting dressed for my big day out, glancing back at the big brown eyes looking at me from my pillows, I felt so guilty leaving him behind. My first grown up emotion of detachment. I remember racing back that day, running straight to my room and giving him the biggest cuddle. I will never forget the day I packed my bag to go on my first overseas mission and I looked at him, sitting so innocently and smiling, as I contemplated stuffing him in my sausage bag and bringing him on this grown up adventure with me.
He was part of my daily routine, my rituals. Some of these I still have managed to carry through to this very day. Every night, he would be there with my parents when they would say our prayers with us. He had a magic wind up button on the back that played the softest, nicest melody that my Dad told me would keep all the bad things away. And when I woke each night from bad dreams, or from my relentless imagination, he would be there beside me. He would also be dragged along with me for moral support when I would sneak in beside my sister.
When I got back from play school, my mother would hand me a bottle, my blanket and Teddy. She would turn on Bosco or a movie and thats when I would sleep my little brain out for an hour or two. This ritual, that I enjoyed very much and became known for, was something I did every single day right up into secondary school and right into sneaking cat-naps on my bed in military training. Sadly, Teddy didn’t make it to midday naps after I hit the age of 12.
Still though, the bed wouldn’t look “made” without him.
To say that my Teddy, or indeed your own Teddy whatever you may personally refer to him as, was not an important addition to your life growing up as a child, is like saying you didn’t need The Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The WWF . In any natural disaster or emergency of any kind you can see pictures of kind volunteers or strangers passing out Teddy bears to children; their parents looking on smiling. On a bad flight a flight attendant will give a teddy to a worried, restless child. In hospitals all over the world, they are a necessity in forming that first trusting relationship between a doctor and a sick child. In truth, it is probably adults that need Ted more in their lives these days, or maybe just to remember the memories of their Ted and what it feels like to be a child again.
I think all a human wants is understanding and a basic need to feel safe and loved. In todays crazy, mad world, its hard to find that quality outside the realm of a stuffed animal.
I think you’re reading this now and you are probably thinking back to your memories of Ted and all he has been through with you. Or that I am completely hatchet mad. Maybe you love your Ted but would rather not say because this world has made you a little too polished around the edges to admit it. But thats ok, because no-one can grow out of their memories, no matter how much they try to. Especially those memories made from love.
I will never grow out of my Ted. He has been there through the fevers, the colds, the bugs and the heartaches. He loyally listened to my whispers into his thumb-worn ears, as I rubbed them each night before I went to sleep, dreaming about all the things I wanted to be when I grew up. He’s staying for good and hopefully he will be dragged along by my own children on their adventures. And if there’s a thunder storm somewhere I can still have a buddy to have an over-active imagination with, under the cover of my duvet. Where nobody has to know about this wonderful friendship.