“Once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly” or The life of the little stuffed bear

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit


He didn’t always look this way.
At some point, very long ago, the stitching was still attached forming the mouth. There was a small bell in the right ear, the one that now has the hole, which tinkled each time he was moved. The neck was not so floppy as there was not the gapping tear. And of course there was the fuzzy fur.

I don’t know when he came into my life, or who had given him to me.
I don’t remember life before him because he was always present.
He just always was.
His name was / is Cubby. I suppose the name was intended officially as Cubby bear, but I simply recall “Cubby”

When do these sorts of things disappear from one’s life?
How is it that one day they are there, ever present, acting as the sentinel guard to one’s very being, then oddly, years of a lifetime pass-by without their ever vigilant presence–the keeper of one’s small soul, only being suddenly rediscovered, packed away in some musty old box buried amongst the debris of Life?
How is that?

And so it goes— my life with Dad which now slowly morphs into something else. Something other than. Something that was not what it is today. Something now odd, now strange, now challenging, now different.
The boxes which are now slowly being unearthed, as I work to clean out the house of what was–those boxes which have been entombed in the depths of a seemingly ancient basement and attic, all which contain the pieces of my life from back then.
“Back when?” you ask.
Back then, as in. . .my life before.
“Before what?” you ask.
Before I was who I am today.
Before I grew up to be 54.
Before I retired from the classroom.
Before I was a mom.
Before I was a wife.
Before my brother’s suicide.
Before Mother died from the cancer.
Before Dad had Alzheimer’s.

Before all of that, he was whole.
He had fur.
He was not torn, nor broken.
He was out living and not buried in a box.
He was ever present.
He was a constant in a life full of the flux of growth.

Each night as I readied for bed, Dad and I had a ritual. I’d climb in the bed and dad would be across the room over at the little baby doll’s bed which acted as the “day bed” for my menagerie of stuffed animals. I would call out a name and Dad would gingerly toss over the lucky recipient, of my heart’s desire, to my small waiting arms. The arms that would eagerly catch “a loved one” for the journey to dreams.
Cubby was always first.

I wonder if Dad remembers that?

There was the good night hug and kiss, the lights turned out as I nestled myself down into the covers and pillow with stuffed animals on either side acting as insulating protectorates as Cubby was held tight. Tiny girl prayers were said. “God bless, Mommy. God bless Daddy. God bless Humpty Dumpty (the other ever-present sentinel), God Bless Cubby. . .”

And so it went, or so it seemed, until one day, it all obviously changed and that person ceased being.

Life is funny that way. One day you’re a young person engulfed in the world of care and love—then poof, you’re now the one offering the care and love.

All of the “before” being long forgotten, that is until the box is found and opened.
Until the life that “was” is unearthed, resurfacing from the packed away Past.
Then, and only then, do the memories suddenly become the Present.
Time stands still.
It is no longer “now” but rather it is “then.”

The secrets told to the fuzzy little bear are magically recalled as instinctively you pull him close in your arms, holding tight to what was. The smell, his smell, it seems to linger. Is it real, or merely imagined?
He contains the countless tears of a little girl. They are all still there. He’s held them all, all these many years. He seems so small.
You bury your face against his face–just as you did so long ago.
He made things better.
He loved you when you were sent to your room for some slight indiscretion of youth.
He loved you when you had the fever, the chicken pox, the skinned knees, the black eye.
He loved you when it thundered.
He loved you when the lights were turned off.
He loved you when your grandfather, your “Pops”, died.
He loved you when you started school.
He loved you when you had your first crush
He loved you when you had your first heartache.
He loved you when you left for college.
He loved you while he waited.
He loved you.

Then one day, he went in a box.
He went away.
I went away.
Life grew big—almost too big. Overwhelmingly big.
Grown up life is not always cracked up to what children imagine—just ask any adult. Childhood has imagination and magic. Adulthood, not so much.
And just when things seemed big, too big— there he was, again.
Out of the blue.
Out of the box.
He looks sadly tired.
I look sadly tired.
But it is him and he is the same.
I am the one who has become different.
I changed.
He did not.
Thankfully, he did not change.

To anyone else, he is but a sad little stuffed old bear. He is torn, broken, ragged, ripped and furless—not even GoodWill material.
But. . .to me, he is beautiful.
He is REAL.
He is hope.
He is happiness.
He is safety.
He is who I was.

And today, I need to be reminded of that very thing—who I was.
And for that, I am once again thankful to the little brown, once fuzzy, bear who long ago held my hopes and dreams in his little imagined heart.
I would like to think that he still has a bit of room in that heart of his to hold a few more of those tears, those hopes, those dreams of mine. . .and because he has withstood the test of time and of a life well worn, and he doesn’t seem to mind the rips, the tears, the holes, the worn away fur–for in all of this is the hurt of becoming REAL. . .

God bless Cubby. . .

21 comments on ““Once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly” or The life of the little stuffed bear

  1. Geralyn says:

    Dear Julie, thank you so much for a greatly written reflection. It’s poetic, it’s amazing. I often hope to be able to publish my own stuff to the same standard.

    Cubby is beautiful. And Cubby will always be, no matter how we change. Forgive me, but I cannot recall if your father is still alive, I think he is… and I wondered if you might bring Cubby to see him? It mightn’t be a good idea, but I am ignorantly putting forth what I would do. But of course I’m not offering advice (I’m thinking out loud,really).

    Thank you for sharing your memories and your musings on finding things around you. I have my Cleo bear, her nose is fallen off now. She’s quite a sight, but her crooked smile is always there for me.


    • Thank you Geralyn for your kind reply. Dad does know that I have the bear, as well as some other “friends” from the past. Whereas he tends to focus primarily on the past, it is my goal nowadays getting him to focus on the present. No easy task—getting him to recognize my son as his grandson and not his own deceased son–challenges of Alzheimers.
      I hope all is well your way and that the weather there is grand as here in the US it is certainly a roller coaster.
      Blessing to you and your family—

  2. Oh my, Cookie, this is simply outstanding! I cried from about the middle all the way to the bottom. You have a way with words, my friend! I can’t even think of the appropriate adjective to describe it, it’s so good and well done!. This really would make a great children’s book, and I hope that you pursue that option with it one day. This is just stunning and almost takes your breath away. Kudos, love, and hugs. Natalie πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Natalie–high praise from you my English teaching friend…and a thank you but you shouldn’t have on the reblog—as one of my principal’s (and I had 8 during my 31 years, all in the same school) use to say “it ain’t all that and a bag of chips” –I never think the things I write about are things that others would necessarily like or enjoy
      Amazing what emotions a little old stuffed bear can elicit.
      Much love to you Natalie–too bad we’re not closer— πŸ™‚

      • Oh I so wish we lived closer too, my friend. Cookie, it was an exceptional piece and just had to be shared. And yes you do say things that others appreciate. My baby girl had and still has a similiar, much cherished bear as well, and I have such fond memories of Teddy and her love for him. Also my father died of a heart attack when he was 52 and I was only 17, so all stories about fathers touch me in a very deep way. So many things that I never got to share with him! Much love and lots of hugs to you too, sweet Cookie. Natalie πŸ™‚

      • I’m so glad that Bette liked your post as much as I. She writes children’s books and told me she thought your story would make a great children’s book. So that makes two of us, missy! I wish you’d start following her blog. Maybe you could get an idea about how to go about getting your story published. Hugs, Natalie πŸ™‚

  3. What a lovely memory of Teddy and our youth, Cookike. I’m so glad that Natalie shared your post. It is so hard when our dear parents leave us in one way or another… My heart goes out to you. Have you thought about writing a book to share your memories past and present? I will reblog this poignant post as well. Blessing, Bette

    • Thank you Bette for your kind words and wishing to reblog. I really wouldn’t know where to start as far as a book is concerned–hence the blog πŸ™‚
      Thank you for stopping by and for your kindness—grace and peace—julie

  4. Reblogged this on 4writersandreaders and commented:
    Memories made and remembered. A poignant post! ~ Bette A. Stevens

  5. Lynda says:

    As I reflected on what you have been through with the deaths of your brother and mother and now with the stage in life of your father, I thought about the deaths of my own parents. It was in 1977 when both parents passed away six months apart. They were both unexpected deaths and there was no time for preparation or for that grieving that you are presently experiencing even though your father is still alive. You are in my prayers as you journey through this experience which at times must drain the life from you. Blessings.

    • Thank you Lynda–and I am sorry for your losses–no matter if it was last year or 37 years ago—there are those things and moments, such as a stuffed little bear, which can bring it all forward again– to the present in the blink of any eye, dragging back some of those initially raw emotions.
      But as you and I both know, God is ever present—there is loss and sadness in this life, but the Victory is already at hand. I love reading the stories of Padre Pio—as hard as it is to believe, Padre Pio tells us that it is when we are hurting the most, that is when God is closest.
      Hugs to you Lynda—julie

  6. That is beautiful. Sad, but real. The whole older generation of my family and my husband’s family are all passed now plus my brother who died of cancer five years ago. My first husband, too. Many friends, most of whom were younger than I am now,, some by several decades. And they keep going. I know it’s generational, the previous one passes and we become the older generation, something unthinkable when we were younger. But we don’t have to like it. Nor do we have to suffer in silence or ever stop missing the ones who are gone.

  7. sjthomas30 says:

    One of my all-time favorite quote and book! I love it! Excellent post–really enjoyed reading it πŸ™‚

  8. J.R.Barker says:

    That was beautiful, everyone should have such a loyal companion.

  9. Wow, this is deeply wonderful. I am so glad that Natalie reblogged it so that I could discover your blog.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

  10. Jenna Dee says:

    Such a beautiful post Julie, thank you for sharing it with us. I relate to every word. Love Jenna

  11. Julie, that was wonderful! Good luck with your Dad~I wish you much patience…try and see the humour when there is some. And thanks, Natalie, for sharing.

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