A Brief Ode To A Bear

By Lucy Harbron - 17:50

Yesterday I noticed that my childhood bear looked dirty. Pooh Bear, 21 and sat on my new bed with his bald spots suddenly tinged grey, and for a moment I’m flooded with a burning anger for my boyfriend’s dusty room where my bear lived briefly. Taken from home to home, resting proudly in every bed I’ve set my duvet on, when I first moved down to London we were left in waiting for a month. And there’s no way Pooh would be boxed up and put in storage, no way. Parted from all my belongings but a suitcase of clothes, a scrappy bear felt like the one thing I needed.

Once an underwhelming gift, I didn’t care for Pooh Bear much on that Christmas, age 1 and more interested in Barney. Originally full of metal that would bend him into poses, dressed smartly in a red t-shirt that left dents in luscious fluff – now he’s full of shards, occasionally poking through thinning arms as a reminder of his former glory. When my Mum asked if I’d ever get him restored, I couldn’t say no quick enough as his bold spots and holes bring me more comfort than fresh fur ever could. I love his strange face, I love the way his smile has migrated into something sideways and old, I love how certain patches have matted into a kind of velvet. And I think lately I’ve loved him more than ever, feeling almost embarrassingly reconnected to my childhood bear at 23, gripping him tight despite my boyfriend taking up the other pillow, crying if he fell from the bed onto a foreign floor.

During long distance days or earlier teen relationships, Pooh was relegated to a draw each visit with no space for him in the bed. I could probably liken him to a child, needing to become certain of feelings before I introduced bear and suitor. So he stayed out of sight, spending another year shuffling between bed and hiding place as I grew bashful of him. At uni, you rarely see other childhood toys. Maybe we’re all doing the same dance of hiding or maybe some people are simply less sentimental, but I remember feeling shy about his presence but knowing, completely, that I couldn’t do it without him. Moving from Middlesbrough to Sheffield to Manchester to London, taking trips in between for holidays and internships, going back and forth for Christmases and birthdays, this bear might be the truest form of companionship I’ve ever known and god his dirty material makes me want to cry.

When I first reluctantly rolled my suitcase into my partner’s house after finding my new flat flooded, the first feeling was one of grief. After six months of blissfully living alone again, filling each of my walls with my things, writing my name on every corner I could look at with objects that came with an owned by me tag, being separated from my things feel shamefully like losing a piece of myself. When my TikTok algorithm feeds me a clip of minimalism with sweet voices talking about the need to disconnect from material things, I utterly can’t relate. I think there’s a bit of me in everything I own as I used to look around my flat and gush over all the artwork and vinyls and books I’d gifted myself. Raised to scrimp and always consider the value before a purchase, everything has been granted special access, deemed worthy, invited in. For the first week without it, I mourned my coffee machine, my artwork, my record player, my books, my little silly trinkets. I mourned my own space that looked and smelled and felt like mine. I cried the whole first weekend, coughing out a couple of small sad words on the first night – ‘Can Pooh sleep in the bed?’

Despite being my favourite thing, my relationship to Pooh is different to my love for everything else. Maybe in 21 years I’ll feel similarly towards my favourite prints or my oldest books, but I doubt it. I won’t have spent childhood Christmases singing happy birthday to them, taken them on every journey, but left them behind on school show-and-tell days, terrified of losing them. By the end of the month, I’d forgotten about a lot of my other beloved belongings, so I guess if I did lose them, I’d eventually recover, while even the thought of misplacing this bear makes me seize up. I can’t write anymore on that idea.

But we as people lose a lot. In the course of my 23 years, I’ve lost favourite albums to breakups, I’ve lost hobbies and passions, I’ve lost important jewellery and phones and passports. I’ve lost best friends and partners and family. Most the things we love will disappear or die in a pessimistic but true way. Maybe the difference in my love for pooh is that the silly bear is forever. Theres no need to snap pics and post on my Instagram because he’s not fleeting, beyond life phases and changes, his role in my life is almost boring in its solidness. There’s a gentle pleasure in him, something sweet about owning a thing that is so completely pointless and simple, but keeping it so long you’ve embedded a million different functions and needs into it, year by year.

By this point, Pooh will never stop smelling like me, with 21 years of nights pushed into his stuffing. Nothing about him will ever be scary or new or strange as he ages with me. And no matter how many strange beds I held him in or boyfriends that patted his little head, he’s mine. Unleaving, untainted, unchanging in its power to soothe, my childhood toy is the purest form of ownership, the solidest companion, still the best thing I have.

I think this is just my ode to him.

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