"Can you fix my bear?" I asked the woman in the stuff-a-bear store, hopefully, and a bit desperately. I had about one hour to get the bear stuffed, sewn up, and restored to his usual place on my son's bed before he returned home.
I looked around the store to see walls of miniature outfits, shoes, accessories. All for bears. It was a sparkly, multi-coloured universe for bears. There was even a bear wardrobe - for the bear clothes.
"Maybe! Can I see him?" She asked. I detected a patronizing tone in her voice. Perhaps she wondered if I was a crazy bear lady. My hair was a little wild from the weather outside that day.
"Okay, but I'm warning you, he's in bad shape." I said, jokingly.
Her eyes widened as I slowly pulled the bedraggled, chewed bear from the plastic carrier bag.
"Oh my! Poor bear!" She said, with real, honest sympathy. I'm not sure whether the sympathy was for the bear, or me. Maybe she suspected I - the crazy bear lady - had done something to the bear. Maybe I'd gnawed its paws off in a rage or taken the scissors to them.
"It's my son's bear." I said, quickly.
"Oh. Okay, give me five minutes. I'll see what I can do."
I wandered off for five minutes.
Poor old Harry. Harry, the Steiff bear, purchase and lovingly sent across the Atlantic ocean in a brown paper parcel by my brother when Matthew was born, has become the bear to end all bears. To my son, he's like the superbear of all time.
And because of all the love and attention Harry has received, he's acquired the look of an eighty year-old war hero who's been through some really rough times.
You may remember the time I attempted to repair Harry. Alas, my sewing skills aren't fit for a turkey, let alone a bear.
Five minutes later, I returned to find the woman sitting by the bear-stuffing machine, studiously hunched over Harry, poking a needle and thread into his arms and legs. Not wanting to bother her, I continued perusing the store. There were cell phones for bears, hockey kits, sun glasses, musical instruments, even underwear.
"How old is your son?" She asked me.
"Oh, well then maybe," She said sincerely "..it's time he retired the bear?"
I stared blankly for a moment, then laughed.
"No. No no no no. No. Really? No. There's no way. I mean it's like his favourite thing in the world. He's never without it. It was hard enough getting it away from him today."
The woman was not laughing.
Clearly, I had failed to see the seriousness of the situation.
"Yes, but, at some point, he's going to have to let it go."
"Why?" I asked, suddenly worried the fate of my son's bear was hanging delicately between this woman and her needle.
"Well, he just won't last at this rate."
"I think hell might freeze over before my son will give up that bear."
There was a pause while the I thought about grabbing Harry and making a run for it.
"You know what I'd recommend?" She asked, with a solution on the tip of her tongue. "You should bring your son in here and get a replacement bear for him."
I had to suppress a snort. Replacement bear? Complete insanity!
"Yeah. See. I don't think he'd go for that." I said.
"I tell you what: you bring your son in, find a replacement bear, and we'll put Harry in the new bear."
Long pause, while I considered her suggestion.
"You mean like, you want to take Harry and put him in a new bear, and my son could still take him out whenever he wanted?"
"No, I mean we'd sew the new bear up with Harry inside. So that way, your son can say goodbye to him, but know he's still there."
I had visions of Matthew watching Harry get stuffed into a strange bear along with a bunch of stuffing and sewn up. It would be like a scene from a horror movie - you know, the kind where someone accidentally gets burried in a coffin or crushed in a garbage truck that kind of thing.
No one would hear the screams.
There would be years of therapy to recover from the trauma of such an event.
I looked back to the woman, realizing there was no winning this conversation.
"I think that's a great idea." I said.
Then I took the bear with new feet and hands, thanked the woman, and left.
To be continued.....