My son Chris was very young when his father and I divorced – just a season past his fourth birthday. Jeff was good about staying in touch with Chris and paying child support, but as it happens, we never lived near each other again. For a while we were as close as Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but for a number of years we were more like a plane ride away, or a couple days drive. That made visitation tough.
I’m a reader. Love books. LOVE them! So naturally, I read a lot to Chris from the moment he was aware enough to enjoy the simplest picture books. One of our favorites in his early school years was an old book with a little brown bear and his mother. It was a large hardcover book with probably a half dozen stories about the bears, accompanied by simple line drawings as illustrations. Little Bear’s curiosity was always getting him into hot water, and Mother Bear was inevitably there to save the day and all was well in the end. After a story, I would tuck my “little bear” in his bed and kiss him goodnight.
When Chris and I lived in Dallas, his dad and I decided Chris was finally big enough to take a direct flight to Pittsburgh by himself to see Jeff and his wife for Christmas or a few weeks in the summer. I would take him to the gate at DFW and hand him over to a kind flight attendant who would place him near the front of the plane and ply him with 7Up and tiny bags of pretzels for the flight.
I don’t think Chris was ever nervous about this – but I certainly was! I tried hard not to show it, of course. So maybe it was as much for me as for Chris when I surprised him with a little stuffed brown and black bear I christened “Traveling Bear” to see him safely from one airport to the next. Chris boarded the plane with Traveling Bear tucked safely under one arm for a number of years, until he believed he was far too grown up to be seen with a stuffed animal in public.
Traveling Bear continued to makes it way to his dad’s house, though slightly squished in with everything else in his suitcase. Eventually he just stayed on a shelf at home, and then Traveling Bear was packed away during one of our moves and I hadn’t seen him in years.
Fast forward to today, and when Chris was visiting last month, he teased me more than once about being obsessed with Mick, the Wonder Dachshund. He accused me of being more attached to the dog than to my own son and said I was in danger of becoming a crazy pet lady who dresses her dog in tiny clothes and leaves all her money (what money?!) to the ASPCA.
I was changing sheets and clearing the debris in Chris’s room after he left, when Mick wandered into his closet to search for anything old, stinky, or chewy for entertainment. Out he came with . . . Traveling Bear!
I felt like the dog was desecrating my baby’s first pair of shoes or something.
“LEAVE IT!” I screamed, as I rescued Traveling Bear from sure destruction. There’s not much I won’t do for this adorable pup, but mess with my BOY’s precious relics from childhood? Hell, no!
So this blog is for you, darling Chris. Yes, I love my pooch. But son, you are and always will be the “be all and end all” for me. Traveling Bear is now safely sitting on my dresser and we miss you each and every day. Love you.