Years ago there was a rhubarb patch growing alongside a sandbox in front of a garden near a river and that rhubarb patch, just like the sandbox, the garden and the river, was enjoyed all summer long. Children big and small would sometimes pull a stalk of rhubarb when going to play in the sandbox or run through the garden.
One day, a glorious, beautiful day, a bunch of teddy bears, of all shapes and colors and sizes and conditions, gathered together by that rhubarb patch to play outside in the sunshine. Big, lovable Dandy, wearing quite the straw hat, was more worn out than the Care Bear or other teddy bears enjoying their time together. Dandy’s condition had nothing to do with his age. Rather, it was all about the love he received and the love he gave back—reminding me of one of so many quotable lines from the treasured children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams—
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“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.”
Dandy was loved. Dandy became real just like so many other teddy bears have become real through endless hugs and countless kisses and fur combings and dress-up times and tea parties and snuggling in bed before falling asleep and sitting by rhubarb patches in the sunshine. Many of those really loved and really worn teddy bears now sit on shelves or are tucked away in attics or closets or have been tossed into a toy box or placed in a crib or given down to the next generation, or have become but a memory kept deep in one’s heart.
To all those beloved, those really worn, Real Teddy Bears like Dandy, I wish you a very well-deserved, very Happy Teddy Bear’s Day. You have been there for so many of us in good times, bad times, funny times and sad times. We’ll forever feel your hugs and the warmth of your fur and the love in your eyes. As Margery Williams simply explained: “Once you are REAL you can’t become UNREAL again. It lasts for always.”