by Lisa Anne Tindal
The noisy celebration at “Aunt Boo’s” was interrupted by the arrival my baby sister. Seven years younger, our life’s trajectories vastly different and our starts in life I suppose vary in both perspectives and experiences. Her hair is long, she’s got a leaner body, an easy elegance in her posture. Her temperament is wait and see sort of measured while mine is it’s possible it could be true, let’s dream it!
Our eyes are the exact same blue and they met mine with a sort of giddiness not typical of her that day. She was the bearer of unexpected news.
She announced that she’d brought me something. With a sweet little bit of pride, she lifted a one-eyed, smushed and worn of its fluff teddy bear from a brown paper bag.
And I smiled and paused, lost in the strangeness, the mystery in the room. Then, I asked her if it had belonged to my daughter or son and I’d just passed it on to her daughter, then her son.
They’d cleaned out their attic and she found it. She told me this and then with blank puzzlement on her face, her excitement changed to disbelief.
“This was your bear,” she said. “This was yours.”
An audience of family had gathered by then and so I pretended to be happy, pretended that I remembered.
The worn brown bear with a zipper pouch and old battery from the 60’s was tucked quickly behind the door, safe so it wouldn’t get thrown in with the crazy of “white elephant” gift exchanging.
“That’s mine.” I said softly to my daughter hoping to convey the significance. I said the same to my husband and my sweet aunt, adding that I don’t remember being a little girl who loved a bear.
But the wonder of it all changed to solemn longing. There are things I cannot remember. This makes no sense at all.
My siblings tell stories of us that I don’t own. I’ve been told I cried most of my infancy. I’ve heard the account of my grandfather’s boat falling on my leg and I listen when the cousins remember days that were special. I absorb their memories hoping they’ll somehow flip the switch to enlighten mine. I see the blank expressions on their faces that I suppose mirror mine. Trauma in your childhood leads to memory loss, either because as a child you removed yourself from the sadness or danger or because your brain did it for you. Like most things in life that keep you searching to unlock the mystery, the more healing choice is to understand the void and accept it.
The brown bear ended up tossed in the back of my daughter’s car and I quietly retrieved it, knowing it as a true treasure. I laid it on the bed in the spare room/nursery, my bear.
Weeks passed and I could not stop writing stories about the look on my baby sister’s face.
Twice or more she repeated, her brow furrowed, and her mouth pursed in expression, “This is your bear, I found it and wanted you to have it.”
Questions and schemes mounted. I could call my sister and ask her to help me put the pieces together. I could explain to her that I have been trying so hard. I do not remember being a child who was given a teddy bear and I don’t remember letting her keep it.
Then, she’d read to me from the book of our childhood and I’d be relieved or even more troubled by sweet details long ago vanished. I decided against calling. I decided to remember only the love in her eyes when she passed me the borrowed bear, not to taint the gift of this giver, my sister, not stir up memories of our childhoods we’re both better off not revisiting.
After a time of being afraid, my granddaughter asked for a sleepover. We were cuddled together before nine. She asked to sleep with my bear. Sleep came quickly as she lay close beside me, her little face next to the one-eyed bear. It was early and I hoped for a night with no “take me home.” I struggled to be still. I struggled to get the weight from my chest. Then, her little frame turned to her side and let out a sigh that said sleep and the teddy bear lay between us.
I pulled it to my chest and let out a long exhale. I slept. Words are lacking to express the realization of that sleep now two weeks passed, sleep that came softly, suddenly and so gently. Until now, there’s been a bigger secret, a more beautiful discovery.
My husband makes the bed some days even though I remake it. I’m certain he’s aware of my sleeping with a stuffed animal. He either places it on the nightstand or just leaves it on the floor. My nights have been tender and I’m not embarrassed. Not embarrassed to be sixty-two years old and hugging tightly like a treasure my childhood bear. No need for questioning the gift of sleeping like a baby.
The bear my sister found has guided me to a deeper and more important healing. The path is one like little tiptoes, not sought or forced.
In a recent talk before a group of women about my journey back to art and about understanding our value is according to God, not others, not acclaim, not our past detours, I described myself in a way I hadn’t planned.
“I stand before you, a woman sort of lost and now found.”
Strange, until now because last week I found a devotional from thirty plus years ago. I wasn’t ready for it back then as I fought to stop starving myself or to destroy my body. I’m reading it now.
Reading and remembering without shame.
Tonight, I’ll find my teddy bear and hold it closely in the dark, the connection between my sister and me.
Hold closely what is found, not long for what is meant to be lost.
Lisa Anne Tindal is a writer and artist, and a children’s book author and illustrator of a book inspired by her granddaughter entitled “Look at The Birds”. Lisa Anne hopes to convey strength and courage in both her artwork and writing and to empower women who have experienced childhood or adult trauma. She believes in beautiful redemption stories and writes honestly about her own as a way to lead others to believe they can live unhindered. Connect with her at www.lisaannetindal.com, and Instagram, and Twitter.
*Photo courtesy of Victor Guevarra and Unsplash
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