Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A rundown on the Numero Uno menagerie (aka bedtime/playtime/travel pals) so far:

1 x stoner dog named (Bob) Marley = $xx + P&H, shipped by the dearest, largest heart in WA (was awaiting the LGBB in her crib before she even came home from the hospital)
1 x scruffy dog named Scraps = $40 at a toy store (became the LGBB's BFF when she met him on her first birthday)
1 x guilt/rush/impulse purchase at an airport named Cummee (the bunny) = $30 (has become the LGBB's knock-around buddy, but she treats him like shit and disses him a lot)

Enter stage left, the mangey, ugliest teddy on the shelf: Sherry = priceless.

Two weeks ago, on an impromptu shelf-swiping (as you do) of stuffed toys and teddies, many of which she has shown little to no interest in, the LGBB spied a little, white, stiff, upright bear. Literally the ugliest bear on the shelf. Amongst the plush bears (some of which were the best of my collection as well), there she sat. A lone bear, standing out like a sore toe but overlooked for years.

This was Sherry, my grandmother's bear.

My father's mother led one of the most heart-wrenching lives I've ever heard. And I could do well to take a leaf out of her humble book, rest her soul. I believe I owe much of my tenacity and sense of survival to her. Or, at least, to the memory of her and the knowledge that she lived such an amazing life yet never bleated or complained ONCE about it. About other things, for sure, oh absolutely. But never about how hard her life had been. I would do well to remember that more often and close my own trap sometimes. And the times I do, inevitably it is thanks to calling on her energy, her strength, for she is still very much an incredible force. I'm sure there are many people have had such a strong character like this in their lives who, when they pass away, you end up finding out much more about the depth of that person and what they went through and it makes them all the more amazing to you. You know?

Grandma Ruby (the very one Ella is named after - Ellanor Ruby) was one of four, that she knew of (it turns out, as Dad has been uncovering doing genealogy research for the past decade or so, that she was actually one of a staggering and tragic TEN). While in the seventh month of bearing what was to be her final child, Grandma's mother was taken ill and passed away, the unborn baby taken with her. My Grandma and her three siblings currently under their mother's care were all shipped off to foster places. Grandma ended up in an orphanage for quite a while - I think something like two years - and eventually, she and her younger sister, Joan, would end up fending for themselves from a very young age. Working and getting by, a couple of great pals and sisters, in wartime London.

Fast forward another 50-60 years, a couple of years after my dear Granddad passed away, to the year when Grandma announced she had bought herself a bear. At the time, the concept of an 80-something year old woman buying herself a bear, and a crazy ugly one at that, didn't consume me all that much. Hardly even piqued my early-twenties interest.

What I failed to recognise was that this was an incredibly important and special bear. We did not know, until after Grandma died, the extent of her story. Of losing her mother, of course. Of a father who, rather than attempt to raise his children, farmed them all out (the result of which, the first time, was a period of vile sexual assault that ended up in court and across the papers when Grandma was a young girl of 11). Of then having to survive through childhood to a point in her adolescence when she could just take care of herself. And that she did, admirably. Her own pregnancy losses after she met my grandfather are documented in my book (for she is a strong influence stringing through my own life story, in terms of finding strength during struggles to conceive).

All these things culminated in this octogenarian grandmother exclaiming one day that she had bought herself a bear. The bear she never had as a child. These days, thinking about it, of course my heart really aches for that lost, tough, frightened little girl. So fractured by the separation of her family that nobody ever even thought to give her a teddy.

And the day after Ellanor died, my father turned up, armed with this old lady's old bear. The gift she had given herself.

"I thought you might like Grandma's old bear," he choked, handing it to me. I thanked him, but was kind of repelled. After all, the bear was so stiff to hold. There was no hugging it for comfort. I found it almost humorous that Dad had given me a bear as an offering of comfort when I didn't gain any satisfaction from even touching it. I felt so guilty for not feeling more.

"We named it, you know... Sherry," Dad told me that day. Now that was kind of funny, I conceded. Grandma was reknowned, suburb-wide, for her penchant for a decent sherry *blergh* and would even mix up her own brew from two kinds. I never knew there were different tasting sherries until the day Grandma comically showed Steve and I how she made her own. Sherry. Yes, it seemed quite fitting.

On to the shelf Sherry went, with my teddy bears to date. Once the LGBB was born, several more bears and animals were added. Sherry stayed, not front and centre - more back and side. That is, until two weeks ago.

Ever since Lolly laid eyes on this bear (mind you, she has been sleeping adjacent to the box-shelf that houses all these stuffed toys and Sherry has been in full view for the past two years), she wanted to know "WhassAT!???"

"What's WHAT?" I asked, mimicking her.
"THAT!?" Lolly exclaimed, pointing to Sherry.
"That bear? You don't want that bear, do you?" I asked. What a snob, thinking about it.
"Yeah!" the LGBB breathed, more an acceptance of my having understood her than a request to offer her any other toy around Sherry. I gave her permission with a nod and a "You can say hello to that bear" encouragingly.

Lolly beamed as she pulled the stiff, white, dusty bear down from the shelf. "Hi," she said softly, gazing at her (wooden, stiff) features. I felt my breath catching in my throat. It was rather emotional, seeing my Grandmother's bear being loved by a little child.

"Do you know this bear's name?" I asked my daughter.
"Mmmm?" Lolly enquired.
"Sherry! Her name is Sherry."
"Sherreeeeeeee!" Lolly was very excited.

And that was it. Ever since then, it's been Sherry this, Sherry that. In fact, it's actually Sherry-bear. I showed Dad when he came over on the weekend for Lolly's second birthday. He was a little overcome, very touched.

There on the floor, surrounded by party-goers and in amongst the new toys was Sherry. Front and centre.

Edited to include a picture of Sherry and Lolly, (sitting in a tree):

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