Monday, July 10, 2023
It’s Teddy Bear Picnic Day!
Not to be confused with National Teddy Bear Day. Not to be confused with World Bear Day. Not to be confused with International Polar Bear Day. I’m sure there are a dozen more but I need to be writing and not googling bears all day.
Sadly I missed Winnie the Pooh Day in January because he is one of my favorite bears.
My favorite favorite bear of all time, however, is Theodore. One of the very first (it would have to be up to my mother to remember how first is first) books I ever owned was Theodore by Edward Ormondroyd. We read that book bare. And I loved that bear bare.
He is the one you may recall from an earlier post, who got lost in a department store only to be found later looking a bit too shiny and clean. That’s exactly what happened to Theodore in the book. He ended up in the laundry and came home so clean that his little girl did not recognize him. So he went on some grand adventures to scruff himself up and that worked out quite well.
I spent the next 50-something years scruffiing my Theodore up.
You know how you do that thought experiment where you ask yourself, if there was a fire and you had to grab your most valuable things in a split second, what would they be?
I have a plethora of Hello Kitties but my first true love was teddy bears. I have even more of those. Strangely, they all ended up in a box in the attic in Brigantine, nary a one traveling with me. Travesty! How did this happen?
All of my teddy bears have names. Some of them were made up. Some came attached to their little tags. It never occurred to me to change these names. Whenever I got a new bear I’d always look for his name first, because you wouldn’t meet a human friend and just call them George without asking their name first, would you? Silly.
For as long as I can remember, we never referred to bears in my family as stuffed animals or toys. They were always Friends.
Friends went to the park with us. Friends went on car trips with us. Friends slept next to us in bed at night. I had a whole ritual where I’d make three rows of three Friends each next to my pillow, with two bigger ones under that, and the biggest one on the opposite side of the bed near the wall.
But remember, it’s teddy bear picnic day, do you know why?
Me neither. Apparently nobody does, but it’s a thing nonetheless. I’m not much for picnics but the one bear I do have – thanks to a Valentine’s gift from my father – is quite happy with a cocktail and some buttered biscuits.
There is also a Teddy Bear Picnic song and TV show. I’ve never seen the show but the song is creepy. Honestly, I never liked that song. The music pre-dates the lyrics by quite a bit. It was composed in 1907 but it wasn’t until 1930 that someone else made up lyrics. The original title was The Teddy Bear Two-Step.
To be fair, the original music is just a cheery kind of calliope. But when you listen to modern renditions they seem to add a lot of extraneous instrumental that has always struck me as more disturbing than cute.
I was surprised to learn that a fair number of famous people have covered this song. Anne Murray. Bing Crosby. For scientific purposes I listened to several renditions and they weren’t as bad as I remember them.
By now everyone knows the story of how President Theodore Roosevelt would not shoot a bear and sparked the nation’s Teddy bear craze. It’s a nice story, if not quite as romantic as one might think. He did refuse to shoot a bear. But it wasn’t just a cute little bear cub that he wanted to protect, it was an exhausted old black bear that had been tracked down and tied up to a tree so this hunt-loving president could get his kill. It seems he was the only one without one that day.
But he decided that shooting the bear would be unsportsmanlike. The bear was killed anyway, because it was so wounded by that point that it was the most humane thing to do. Just not by the president.
But marketing is marketing, and it gave us the Teddy in front of bear and the picnic for a day.
Teddy bears make me very happy. They’re always smiling, always arms-open for a hug. They’re just as happy to be called Bear as they are Lullaby or Straps.
They enjoy being squished, don’t mind being dropped, are still as lovable without their fur and eyes. And in the end, you can never really have too many bears.
It’s occurred to me in the writing of this that I have not named my Valentine bear. I think I’ll call him Biscuit.
Photo: newly christened Biscuit, hanging out and ready to picnic with a cocktail.