I originally wrote this as a post on an adverts subcommunity of a women-only Livejournal community. It is the first time I have written about my mother and I want to share this little slice of our life with a slightly wider audience. You will probably want to know in advance that the bear has a new and a happy home!
Do you remember Susanna Gretz’s charming children’s picture book series, Teddybears? Perhaps, if you do, you had a favourite bear. Perhaps that favourite bear was Charles, the bookish fellow with the red glasses. If that was the case, do I have a treat for you — a Charles of your very own, as fluffy as the day he was born and free to a good home.
In my late teenage years, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I had been very close to my mother — she had been in many ways my best friend and was certainly my closest confidante — and as an 18 year old I had absolutely no way of dealing with this. This is the context for my odd little story.
As my mother’s illness progressed she (ever a fan of antiquing) became a more hardcore collector. This was around the time eBay was taking off in the UK, and she found a real community there — a group of people who knew her only by her words, who cared about her based on what she wrote and who knew nothing about her life and what was happening to her. Always a fine writer, I think she appreciated this more than I’d recognised until the moment I wrote this; she had always written, never sought publication, and now was engaging people all over the world with her words and her wit.
My mother, too, did not limit herself to her specific area of collecting, which was (if you are interested) Shelley crested china. She also bought a lot of just… stuff, for me, when I was at university. Sometimes this was stationery and sometimes it was books and — in one case — it was a bookish bear from a series of books I had enjoyed a lot as a child. This bookish bear is Charles, the bear I would like you to have.
It’s not like I’ve been unable to give away the things that my mother bought for me. It’s not even like I’ve been unable to give away stuffed toys that remind me of her. Charles is different. Charles is a perfect storm of her gift for writing, her facility for making friends, and her tendency to anthropomorphise.
The advert that advertised him was written as though he were a valued pet that the family could no longer keep. I know, in my mind, that this eBay seller was just clearing space. My mum, given the above mentioned gifts and tendencies, seized with delight on this aspect of the ad, entering into a correspondence with its author that negotiated, very seriously, the future household and comfort of Charles the bear.
When he arrived, he arrived with a note from the owner: “This is a very hard time for me. Please be gentle with him.”
Then I was given Charles, with the full story.
As mentioned above, I cannot just give Charles away to charity. I really feel like a have a responsibility to him that I cannot shake for as long as I own him. What I do want is for him to have a home where he is not freighted with the expectations and the love and the fear that he currently is. He’s just a chill bear who likes books and adventures. Is this something that you can offer this bear?