My mother's bears

At around the time that I left for college, the emptiness and loneliness that were unavoidably attached to our remote house finally got to my mother. Mom’s mothering instincts, which didn’t lessen with my leaving, needed an object. At that time, teddy bears were enjoying a surge of popularity among children, and thus my mother settled upon them as a target for her mothering instincts.

My own childhood teddy bear, given to me by my mother’s twin sister even before I was old enough to have left the hospital, had long since been retired to a shelf in my closet. No matter — it was too small of a bear for my mother’s purposes anyway. Mom went for the big bears, the ones that not only were larger than the average toddler, but much better dressed as well. She invested in clothes for them, as well as buying several pre-dressed teddy bears.

The bears were placed throughout the house, and quickly grew to a number that I considered as spooky. Dad tried to ignore them as I did, but there were few bear-less places for him to focus his attention on, outside of the evening news. He grew more and more fond of the news. He knew that Mom and I were not getting on very well at this time, and felt that he had to support her in some way, and so he accepted and ignored the bears.

The high point of the teddy bears came in the form of a dinner party — not, as you might think, the proverbial picnic. This was a very formal dinner party that required Monica, the housekeeper, to polish thoroughly the long oak dining table in the stuffy dining room that was the house’s second least used room. The living room was the least unused, though a few people tended to drift through it during parties on their way to and from the bar. The shining table was fitted out with Mom’s most formal china and her least-usable silverware. All of the dining chairs were packed closely around the table’s diameter, almost twice as many chairs as there were guests at the party. Seated on every other chair down both sides of the table sat a teddy bear, female and male bears alternating.

I had seen the table set up earlier in the day, of course, so I came timidly into the room, behind the other guests. During the cocktails portion of the party, they had all been their usual happy, noisy selves. When they entered the dining room though, the chattering quieted down by several notches, as they all took in the bears and my mother’s instructions for the guests to take their places, everyone sitting between large, silent, stoic teddy bears. On each of the guests’ faces, I saw looks of bewilderment and amusement, variously well masked.

A few moments after sitting down to dinner, the guests each got used to craning their necks around and over the bears’ heads to talk to each other, and it seemed to me that all became well as dinner passed. There was also wine served with dinner. The bears did not get any.

By about a year after this, the teddy bears were gone from the house. I have no idea what happened to them.

2 thoughts on “My mother's bears

  1. It was at the beginning. But my parents and their friends habitually drank pretty heavily, so the tension didn’t last long.

    Buck himself still has trouble believing this… I hadn’t somehow told him of this episode, and he was as surprised as you.

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