Was it time for us to retire Boomer to that Stuffed Bear Den in the Sky?
A couple of days after our son was born, my husband Larry came to St. Peter’s Hospital with a huge brown teddy bear, his first gift to Adam. We named the stuffy “Boomer,” the moniker we had given to my ever expanding stomach during my pregnancy as well as a salute to our Baby Boomer status.
Boomer occupied a place in Adam’s room in our family home through nursery school and beyond. When the shiny nose fell off, I sewed on another one with black yarn. When the paws got torn up after too many rides on Adam’s Big Wheels, I covered up the bear’s bare spots with yellow felt patches. Even when Adam left for college and Boomer was bursting at the seams, I patiently sewed up his side and his legs.
In the end, Larry and I loved Boomer more than Adam did. By his bar mitzvah, Adam relegated Boomer to the top shelf in his bedroom. When Adam headed off to the University of Rochester in 1996, he left him behind.
We put the brown bear on the pillow on Adam’s bed in the quiet, empty, amazingly clean room. Boomer waited patiently through Adam’s grad school and first jobs and trips across country and to Israel and Belize and law school. Alas, Adam never sent for him.
When we packed up to move to Florida, I sent texts to our children with pictures of the things they left behind with the simple request: “Toss or send to you?” Adam claimed his Star Wars action figures, Zayde Ernie’s World War II helmet, and a couple of framed pictures. Boomer got a thumbs down.
Larry and I didn’t have the heart to throw Boomer in the trash. After some discussion, we carted him to Kissimmee, where he earned a spot on a bookshelf with our other cherished tchotchkes: Larry’s Otto the Orange mascot, a plush toy I had given him one Chanukah that played the Syracuse University’s marching song when we squeezed his hand. My two 7 inch high dolls in Mexican attire my father had purchased for me at a gift shop in Montreal’s Chinatown after wontons and fortune cookies at the Nan King restaurant. Julie’s doll with the green dress and matching bonnet that had prompted our then-fourteen month old daughter’s first complete sentence on the way back from a shopping trip to buy her a bed: “Oh-oh! Left Baby Bobbie on mattress at Macy’s,” she cried behind me from her car seat. “Go Back!”
I thought Boomer would find his way back home to Adam when our son’s wife Sarah delivered their own little Boomer in 2020. My hopes that I could pack him up in a box and ship him to California were quickly dashed. “I really don’t want it,” Adam told me. “And after 42 years, goodness knows what germs live in that toy! Toss it!”
Taking a good look at Boomer, I almost had to agree with Adam. I took pride in the fact that the black nose and yellow felt paws and feet I had sewn on over forty years ago were still intact. After too many years dealing with Florida humidity, however, the poor stuffed animal was definitely worse for wear.His now greying stuffing was peeking out of his right leg and exploding out of a side seam. His head wobbled, held onto the body with unraveling brown thread. His “fur” had begun to resemble that of a mangy dog. Still, we put him back on the shelf.
Eighteen months later, Boomer’s future was again jeopardy. Larry and I had managed to fit all that was needed for a seven week trip to visit our children in California and Colorado in two medium sized suitcases. If we had survived all summer with so little, why were our closets and drawers still packed with all the clothes we hadn’t bothered to bring?
It wasn’t just the clothes. Despite our purge when we made the move to Florida from Upstate New York in 2015, we (especially me) had somehow again acquired too much stuff. A kitchen full of housewares. Closets filled with unworn clothing. Old books that I was finally going to read while sheltering in place. A two-foot stack of nearly untouched New Yorker magazines. I was ready for a “pandemic purge.” The day before Rosh HaShanah, while looking in my closet to find an outfit for services, I found two dresses that I had not worn in three years. I threw them onto the guest bed. I followed them up with more items to recycle—clothes, linens, books, heavy sweaters I had saved “just in case.” By Yom Kippur, the pile covered the entire double bed. It was a new year, a new start.
But some things were non-recyclable, including a tattered teddy. “Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to Boomer,” I said to Larry. “No way!” he cried. “Besides, we need to keep him at least until our grandson is able to come to Florida to visit. He has to meet Boomer.”
Larry was right. The idea of putting Boomer into the trash broke both our hearts. I will take out my sewing kit, push the stuffing back into worn cloth, and attempt to stitch him up, using patches if necessary. We will call Adam and Sarah and ask them to mail us a couple of our grandson’s outgrown tee-shirts to cover up all the stitches. And then Boomer will resume his special place on our shelf. Yes, in the end, we couldn’t—forgive the pun—bear to part with him.