The prompt was What if toys had feelings! I so enjoyed writing this one.
Fred, The Teddy Bear
She walked past me in the store. Then she doubled back and her face split into the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. She stood with her head on one side pondering, then picked me up, hugged me and gave me a quick kiss on my nose. “You will be perfect” she said and walked to the checkout counter.
She sat me next to her in the auto-rickshaw; she, a fifty year old or so woman, looking as pleased as punch and I, a giant sized pink teddy bear, trying not to look too anxious. Who had she bought me for? I wondered. Perhaps a grandchild. I wondered how old he or she was. To tell the truth, though this was what I was created for, I was quite nervous.
I remember the day I had been created. That night, before we could be packed off to the various stores, the Toy Fairy appeared to us and this is what she told us, “Teddy bears, remember you are special. You are created to give love. You are meant to give comfort and soothe souls. Every child needs that kind of unconditional love. Remember that. So go, there is a child out there waiting for you.”
And now that I was finally to start on my mission, I wondered, would I be capable of it? What if I failed? But of course I couldn’t voice these fears, and so I sat as straight as I could in the auto, preparing to do my best.
Once we entered the house, she sat me down on a chair and told me to wait till she put away the groceries. “Do people talk to teddy bears?” I wondered. Soon enough she came and stood in front of me and said, “We have to find a name for you, you know.”
“Wouldn’t that be the job of the kid I belonged to?” But of course she couldn’t hear me.
“Hmm I know! Fred! Yes, you look just like a Fred. I know you are pink, but I always thought teddy bears are male, you know. They are always so sturdy and comforting. They remind me of my Daddy, when I was a little girl. He never said much, but I could always run to him for a comforting hug when I was scared or sad. And one can do the same to a teddy bear no?”
It made me puff out my chest ever so slightly at that! I couldn’t wait to meet the kid I was to be assigned to, when I realised that the woman was still talking.
“You know Fred. I bought you for me. That’s right. Now don’t look so surprised. I’ve always wanted a teddy bear of my own and no one has ever bought one that was exclusively mine. As a kid I had to share my toys with my sisters and now that there is no one to share things with, I thought it was a good time to get myself a teddy bear. And so here you are!”
And that is how my life with her began.
Christie, that was her name, seemed to be one of those ever cheerful people. She chatted cheerfully with her friends and family on the phone. She greeted her neighbours cheerfully and besides occasionally patting my head she generally ignored my existence. I recalled what the Toy Fairy had said and I wondered if there had been some mistake. I was supposed to be there for a kid, why was I here? Whose soul needed to be soothed here?
Then one day, Christie put on some music and started dancing. She whirled around the room and laughed. She suddenly lifted me up and twirled me around with her, laughing even more delightedly. “Oh Fred! Isn’t that wonderful! Doesn’t the music just call you to dance? It doesn’t matter if you are alone! You can still dance! And now it’s even better because I have you to dance with!”
And though she laughed, I could see the hint of tears and the sadness that hid behind her words.
A few weeks later, it was raining heavily and Christie stood by the window looking at the rain, with a cup of tea in her hand. She was strangely silent. I was so used to her talking to herself or me all the time or singing tunelessly to herself that my teddy bear heart went on high alert. Something was wrong. Here was a soul that needed soothing, child or not. I had some work to do. But what?
Suddenly, Christie went to the cupboard and took out an old sweat shirt and held it to her face. She stood for a moment of two, inhaling its scent before bursting into tears. I just looked on, helplessly. Then she came and picked me up and said, “Do you know Fred, how long it has been since I have hugged someone? Really, really hugged someone. Not just those social hugs you give but a real loving hug.” She just sat there for some time hugging me with all the sadness in her heart, while all I could do was send her as much love as I could.
After a while, she sighed and got up, “That made me feel better.” she said. “That’s why I knew it was a good idea getting a teddy bear.
A couple of months later, I heard her laughing in the building compound. She was talking to the children who lived in the building.
“Aunty, for whom did you buy the balloon? There are no kids in your house.”
“I bought it for me, beta.”
“But you are not a child. You will play with the balloon?”
“Yes, why not?”
“Because you are so old!”
Her laughter rang out louder than ever, “Arrey beta, you must never grow so old that you lose the child in you. You won’t understand that now, but there is always a part of your heart that remains a child forever.”
And it was then that I realised that I was in the right place, because age doesn’t matter. You can always count on a teddy bear to soothe your soul, whether you are five or fifty!