Isn’t it weird how the same thing can be perceived differently and have different meanings for all those who look at it.
If those words sounds familiar to you, it could be because you read them in my previous post – Grinning Bear It – which is part one to this part two.
While the two posts were born out of one, which I decided to split into two, this one of the two is different from the other one and I’m rather bewildered as to how or why they were ever part of a whole.
The previous post contained narcissists…
This post contains bears, different stories about different bears…
One of the things I love about focusing upon an idea is how it changes my perspective. Things which I might not have noticed or been interested in, suddenly become noticeable and interesting.
Last night while browsing the local online newspaper (I live in the UK, in East Anglia… the land of Druids and Boudica), I noticed the latest installment of a series they’ve been doing for years about local legends, myths, scary tales, and other weird stories. I’ve never read any of the series… until last night.
They have a clickable map which goes with the series, and each click leads to the relevant article – one of those I clicked upon started off by paraphrasing the lyrics of a song:
“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surpriselyrics from The Teddy Bears Picnic by Henry Hall
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic”
The website where I found the lyrics has a section under them which gives:
and shares the history of the song, as well as touching upon the origins of the Teddy bear as a toy friend for children and adults.
“In 1834, Robert Southey wrote Goldilocks And The Three Bears; in 1894 a German toy company came up with a stuffed bear; in 1899, Margarete Steiff registered patents for twenty-three of her soft toy designs including a dancing bear; in November 1902, Morris Michtom sold the first Teddy Bear in his Brooklyn shop. The year 1906 saw the first advertisement for the “teddy bear”, in the trade journal Playthings, and in 1907, a book called Teddy Bear was published; written by Alice Scott, illustrated by Sybil Scott Paley, and The Roosevelt Bears newspaper strip was published in book form.
President Theodore Roosevelt (who was known by his childhood name of “Teedie”) lies at the heart of the teddy bear craze.”excerpt from Song Facts about The Teddy Bears Picnic by Henry Hall
Ah… Goldilocks and The Three Bears… my mother’s favourite story to tell child-me at bedtime (when and if I went to bed at bedtime, which I didn’t always since sometimes my father kept me up to watch horror or western films with him and my mother went to bed before us).
She changed it every time she told it. It made it more interesting that way.
Sometimes Goldilocks was a good girl and sometimes she was naughty, either version of her got her into trouble, lost in the woods, breaking and entering the Bears’ home and vandalising it, then playing the victim when she was caught, and doing a runner to avoid the consequences and responsibility of her actions.
I got the impression that my mother saw Goldilocks as her alter ego, especially as she spent more story time describing Goldilocks, her hair, her face, her clothes, her feelings, her thoughts, her actions, her life before bears than she did on the bears. The bears were just a footnote, extras of little importance soon to be forgotten, in the great adventures of Goldilocks.
She didn’t see Goldilocks as I saw her. For her Goldilocks was the heroine. I thought she was a villain, a picky painful thorn in the bears’ paws.
My mother also loved the Adventures of Isabel:
I liked Isabel too.
For me Nash’s Isabel stories were about inspiring inner strength, self-reliance, and not being intimidated by large beings who are aggressive, who bully, shout, are manipulative and controlling, who may want to eat you and think it’s okay to do that because they’re big and you’re small compared to them.
They puff themselves up, are made grandiose by their delusions of grandeur, feel entitled to everything you have because they want it all and try to squish you like a bug which bugged them.
Child-me often felt like Isabel when dealing with adults.
Up until I was 5 going on 6 yrs old, I didn’t socialise with other children except on rare occasion, and when that happened I was too weird for most other children because I spent so much time socialising with adults or on my own.
I knew how to play backgammon but not hopscotch – My child psychologist Godfather (who I suspect hated children because he found them scary) and his boyfriend taught me to play backgammon when I was about 5 to pass the time while we sailed from island to island in Greece on an old fisherman’s boat.
The socialising I did with adults was mostly due to being dragged around by my parents to adult events (not X-rated adult events, just dinner and lunch parties, gallery showings, and other adult get togethers).
I was expected to be a little adult, but better than an adult… so no getting drunk, being rude, having a brawl or tantrum about something, no acting up because only adults were allowed to do that and more.
And they called me a brat – a precocious brat because I would talk back to the adults if they disrespected me, which apparently is a big No-no… but someone had to protect me and stand up for me (and it wasn’t going to be my parents), make it clear that just because I was small and they were big didn’t mean it was okay to squish me. I wasn’t a toy to be played with and then tossed aside when used up, broken or boring now!
Ah… I see now how the previous post and this one are connected.
Not all the adults in my childhood were badly behaved giants trying to stomp on the little human that I was, nor did they all dehumanise me, treat me like an object, a thing, a target… there were a few very good, gentle and kind ones whose impact upon my developing self was in some ways bigger than that of all those big bullies.
Which brings me to where all of this started, what inspired this post which then became two parts of a whole…
It didn’t start with Ernest Hemingway, although there was something bear-like about him, I included the above excerpt simply because it (or at least the bit highlighted in yellow) popped into my mind as I read about…
The Nounours (Teddy bears) of the Gobelins.
Here’s the Wikipedia entry about them – Teddy bears of the Gobelins.
But I didn’t read about them on Wikipedia, non non… or in the news, non non…
I read about them in a wonderful post:
It’s the kind of post which makes me go all sorts of Hmmm…
Here’s a rather large excerpt (I hope the author doesn’t mind, I’d have made it shorter, but it’s all so inspiring and insightful, and you never know when a blogger might delete a post or their blog, and I wanted to capture it):
“The characteristics of teddy bears:
They are imaginary playmates. Children have incorporated stuffed animals (along with dolls and materials representing them) into their play, assigning them roles in scenarios ranging from the domestic, mundane, and intimate to the outrageous, fanciful, and foreign for centuries. At least since October 14, 1926, when A.A. Milne published the first book in which Christopher Robin introduced Winnie the Pooh, stuffed bears have been the universal imaginary playmate, one a child could identify with regardless of gender, race, or cultural background.
Teddy bears are usually soft and cuddly, pleasant to touch and hug. As I’ve written again and again, touch is critical to mammal well-being. Our enjoyment of it, its ability to reinforce attachment bonds, and its role in survival have been amply documented.
As such, stuffed animals also make a perfect “transitional object,” or stand-in for a primary caregiver who may be absent. The works of D. W. Winnicott underscore the positive place that a material substitute for a missing caregiver can provide in helping a person tolerate distress, maintain a sense of belonging to another being when they are physically alone, and define themselves within a world in which people are continually disconnecting and reuniting.
The relationship between a person and their teddy bear:
Control: The person who encounters a teddy bear does so with full control over the nature of the relationship. No longer are they at the mercy of a waiter who might be rude, a shopkeeper who ignores them, an aggressive seducer. The relationship can be fully responsive to the needs of the human rather than requiring accommodation, responsiveness, or predictability.
Development: The relationship between a bear and its person is free to evolve in ways that suit the needs of the person. In the film Lars and the Real Girl, the sex doll easily adapted to the developmental needs of the man who was afraid of real human relationships, especially those with a woman. As amply described by Adam Gopnik in his piece about Mr. Ravioli, imaginary playmate relationships are free to evolve as a situation changes.
Memories: The teddy bear and its person share experiences. The bear can be an alternate memory source, more powerful than a stash of photographs because reminiscences are curated only by the unconscious. Through sharing memories, the pain of loneliness can be mitigated, a sense of safety invoked, and helplessness tempered.excerpt from From Teddy Bears to Sex Dolls: How Did We Get There? – The Nounours des Gobelins suggest a changing definition of transitional objects by Roni Beth Tower Ph.D., ABPP
After reading her post on Psychology Today, I clicked on the link the author shared in her post to the article she wrote about the Gobelins Bears which (inspired her PT post) went slightly viral, was very popular.
This is the link. It’s a beautiful story and has great photos of the Gobelins Bears in situ:
I must confess that even though I lived in Paris for many years, did a lot of walking along the river bank and elsewhere, explored many parts alone while having an existential crisis (part of the experience of living in Paris) and with the school I went to (certain history classes required going to certain places of historical importance and relevance), I’m not sure where the Gobelins are on the Paris map.
I’m not sure that I ever visited the area, that arrondissement… if I did, I don’t remember it.
Ah, memory… and the things which stir up what is stored within its vaults, archives.
How do you picture your memory?
I like the idea of it being a giant library with many levels… I love books, the smell, the feel, what’s inside of them, and the old style of library is such an appealing structure, with ladders and curves, corridors, nooks, places to get lost and yet not be lost at all, find yourself and discover others in word worlds, warm woods, forests made of books.
I also love the idea of the Akashic Records (wiki link), but that’s more ethereal… more like the internet.
Why do we remember certain experiences and not others?
Why do we recall certain people and not all those we’ve met?
Why do certain things, like a Teddy bear, become keepers of memories for us?
I had two Teddy bears as a child (I vaguely recall also having a panda, and then there were the small clippy koalas which a stewardess friend of my parents kept giving me – I sometimes used those as bookmarks). Both were given to me as gifts.
One was called Hilda, because Hilda gave it to me.
I remember Hilda the bear. She sat on an old raggedy armchair in my bedroom (which was originally my mother’s walk-in closet but then baby came along and it had to be stored somewhere). Hilda was two year old child sized. I didn’t play with her. She just sat on her armchair. She seemed happy like that, just sitting and watching.
I remember Hilda the person. When I met her she was old – she was probably my age now, or a few years older. She was married to Rocco. She was British and he was Italian.
They stayed with us in Italy for a while in the guest house. They were retired. They looked after the house and animals while my parents were away and the rest of their time was spent enjoying all the time they had to do whatever they pleased.
Rocco spent some of it building me a dollhouse – which was magnificent and very sweet (I never told him that my dolls didn’t need a house because they were never home, they were usually shipwrecked on desert islands, lost in jungles, trying to escape captivity before the crazed lunatic who had captured them and tortured them, killed them).
Oh, no, wait… it was Bill of Bill and Maggie who built the dollhouse when they stayed in the guest house. Bill was one of those stern-faced silent types who looks like a mean headmaster that uses his cane on his pupils but who is actually tender-hearted and wouldn’t hurt a fly (well, maybe a fly, they test everyone’s patience… I wonder if the Dalai Lama swats flies?).
When my parents were there, Hilda and Rocco would go off on adventures around the country.
Years later, when they’d decided to live in the UK instead of Italy, I stayed with them in their house in St. Albans for a weekend. My mother had to fly off urgently to sort out some drama my father had created for her to sort out, would be away for a couple of weeks, and I couldn’t go with her because of school… so they offered to help out.
I had fun being looked after by them at first, but then I became bratty after a few days because depression kicked in.
I didn’t know that’s what it was in those days – children aren’t supposed to or allowed to suffer from adult things like depression. Not in those days anyway.
I just felt deeply sad about nothing and everything, retreated into myself away from everyone and hid behind a grumpy face, growling when people approached. I made it difficult for Hilda and Rocco to look after me, especially for Rocco since he stayed with me at our flat in London while I went to school. They were very sweet about it, such gentle huge amounts of patience.
“How do you spell ‘love’?” – Piglet― A.A. Milne
“You don’t spell it…you feel it.” – Pooh”
The other bear was Michael, because Michael gave him to me.
I remember Michael the bear. He was a bit bigger than Hilda, softer too – squooshier. I didn’t play with him either, but he did occasionally come on trips. One trip was a train trip from Milan to Cortina D’Ampezzo – which is a ski resort in the Italian Alps.
That’s the place where I had that bizarre experience in the hotel’s film theatre. The hotel was a bit like the one in The Shining – grand, big and empty and… I met someone weirder than me.
I was alone, passing the time by watching a film and this little girl who lived in the hotel sat next to me in the darkened film theatre which had many seats and only about five people there… but it was Italy and, unlike the Brits, Italians huddle together in empty spaces rather than sit far apart. She stroked my arm. When I asked her what she was doing and why, she said: “I’ve never seen skin like yours, I had to touch it”. I’m covered in freckles… that sort of behaviour from others is normal. She was creepily sweet and we spent some time together after that. Her parents ignored her like mine did with me, and left her with others who left her to look after herself.
No idea why my parents decided to go there because neither of them could ski and they hated snow. I also don’t recall how we got from Rome to Milan.
But I do recall the train trip from Milan to Cortina D’Ampezzo because there was a big fight between my parents (they fought all the time, so that was normal, but this one included being trapped on a train and not being able to get away from each other). The big fight happened because we were supposed to change trains, got off at the wrong station and then got on the wrong train – even though it got us to where we were going it was somehow the wrong train.
Everything was always the wrong thing where my parents were concerned – something or someone needed to be wrong to make the fights more interesting for them.
My mother slept some of the time, and she took Michael away from me to use as a pillow so she would be comfortable. I never quite liked Michael again after that even though he’d done nothing wrong and was still the same old squooshie soft Michael. Once my parents had touched something of mine, which was mine and only mine, and made it theirs…
“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t.”― A.A. Milne
I remember Michael the person. He was American. I met him when he was working at a hotel in which my parents and I were staying for a while due to my father having to travel to New York for an exhibition of his artwork.
Michael was temporarily working as a room service waiter while he finished his studies and then decided what he wanted to do with his life.
He eventually went to work as a National park ranger in somewhere like Montana and then he entered the seminary… or did he do it the other way around. Unfortunately I no longer have the postcards he sent me with his stories about his life adventures.
He occasional babysat me – as in checked up on me during his shift when my parents were out but couldn’t find a babysitter (or couldn’t find one they liked and then blamed me for being difficult… they didn’t like the ones I liked because I liked them, and that was competition to be defeated), and I was left alone in the hotel room. I knew how to look after myself because this was normal, but it was nice to have Michael there but not there just in case I needed someone.
He was one of those people who liked me. His like for me felt genuine not faked like many of the adults I met through my parents who were so obviously pretending to be nice to the child of these people they wanted as friends, as social climbing acquaintances.
It’s weird isn’t it, how people who are faking liking you somehow think you’ll be fooled by it… as though they think everyone but them knows about this ability to fake liking. Or maybe they don’t think that? Maybe they want you not to be fooled by it so the sting of it hurts.
If they’re a narcissist they want it all – to have you be fooled by their fake liking you and for you to be aware of it so that it hurts. And there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s the real sting, because if you call them out you’ll be the baddie and they’ll play the fake hurt by you card causing everyone to assume that you were a meanie to the nicie narc.
“Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.”― A.A. Milne
He was one of those people I liked. Really liked -and not had to pretend-like because I’d been ordered to be polite and fake nice to them. I hated doing that, but it’s a social nicety and you don’t want to be branded as a brat, do you? I got branded that way regardless.
One of the reasons I liked him was because he was one of those rare people who didn’t allow my parents and their shenanigans (they hated it when I liked people, and hated it when people liked me, and had to “steal” those people and their like away) to alter his view of me.
He was a genuinely nice person, heart of gold which was real gold, who was truer than true to himself and thus to others too. It would have taken a heart of stone wrapped in steel and lead-lined not to like him and I didn’t have one of those in those days.
Michael the person gave me Michael the bear to remember him by, and to remember other things too, good things to keep close during bad times to get you through the bad times. I didn’t need the bear for that, I’d learned by then that it was best to keep those sort of things invisible, my parents couldn’t get their hands on them and ruin them that way, but it was a sweet gesture and the memory of it kept me warm during the ice ages to follow.
Hilda and Michael, the bears… were given away at some point.
They did manage to survive my mother’s special type of tantrums which required sacrificing toys and possessions of mine to her volcanic rage to appease it. It’s okay those sacrifices went to the local orphanage, so the sacrifice was worth it – although I never got to meet the orphans so I don’t know if they agreed with that.
They both managed to stick around until I was old enough not to need toys and childhood possessions anymore.
I don’t own anything from my past anymore… other than my memories of it, invisible things which don’t take up much room, which aren’t heavy, don’t need to be packed and unpacked and packed again, carried around from place to place to place, interfered with, taken, stolen, lost… not physically anyway… although memories can be all those things and have all those things happen to them.
A final bear link:
And here’s an excerpt from her very interesting and inspiring post:
Potential Messages the Bear offers us
♦ Patience and Connection
Hibernating with our ideas or projects until a better time presents itself. Further, bear will speak to you about connecting to both earth-based energy and celestial (sun/moon) forces. Tapping into the bear will also allow you to tap into the wax, wane and flow of life.
♦ Confidence and Authority
By its physical presence, the bear reminds us we can be larger than life if we raise ourselves up to our inherent status. Moreover, no one questions the bear. This kind of authoritative presence will be a lesson the bear can impart.
♦ Nurturing and Protectionexcerpt from Bear Meaning by Avia Venefica
We intuit these attributes by the commitment bear mothers make to their offspring. Whether your offspring is in children or ideals, the bear will lend you the determination required for rearing up strong results.
I know it’s long (that’s too long, said Goldilocks) and that I could have shortened it (that’s too short, said Goldilocks), but it feels just right as it is…