Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comfort Objects

When my brother was little, he had a friend, Ryan, who carried around a blanket. I guess "blanket" is the technical name for it, but a more appropriate name for it would be The Used Kleenex, or perhaps The Blanket That Must Not Be Named. As you know, I'm not much of a germaphobe, but even I shudder to think of the beasties that must have festered within that blanket's flannel folds.

Ryan eventually loved that thing to death. It was carried so much that it disintegrated into vapor somewhere around 1984.

My brother and I, on the other hand, were not into the comfort objects. I'm sure I slept with a few animals or dollies, and I know for a fact that Tom slept with a rubber-band gun, but we never named them, carried them around, or lost our minds if they were in the washing machine.
We did have brother-sister teddy bears, Radar and Sissy. Their adventures are fodder for another post, another day.

Owen, however, has a few objects that need to be in his bed every nap, every bedtime: green pillow and Big Teddy. Green pillow is a small, fuzzy throw pillow. There is nothing that distinguishes this pillow from other throw pillows, but Owen has determined that this is the pillow of all pillows. Each morning, it makes the trip down the stairs, only to return back upstairs for naps and bedtime.

Big Teddy is a nice story. My grandmother is in an assisted-care facility in Chicago. She is no longer financially independent, and depends on her children and federal programs to cover her expenses. One side effect of this is that she is now unable to buy Christmas or birthday presents because she has no disposable income. (I know! It's heartbreaking to watch the people you love lose their independence.)

So, it was Owen's second birthday, and she had about two hundred dollars left to her name at that point. She knew that once that money was spent, it was the end of the line. She would never have her own money again. My aunt asked her what she wanted to do with the money, and without hesitation she said, "I want to buy Owen a really big teddy bear for his birthday." That's exactly what happened. (Except that Big Teddy did not cost two hundred dollars. He's not that big...).

When the package came in the mail, the bond was instantaneous. Owen pulled the bear out of the box and kissed it. I can't say that the bear instantly became The Bear of All Bears, but over time, its soft, honey-colored fur became the best thing to hold in the hazy twilight between awake and asleep. This is the bear forced into suitcases, the bear that has prompted anxious, emergency cell phone calls: "You didn't forget to pack Big Teddy, right?"

Being three can be pretty overwhelming sometimes, especially with a needy baby brother. My grandma's gift --Big Teddy-- provides support and warmth when Owen needs it the most. How comforting.

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