I play the possible scenarios back in my mind. My pastel yellow room seems to close in on me, ready to compress me into nothing at any given moment. I feel alone and helpless, unable to figure out what exactly is triggering these feelings. My mom tells me the story all the time, but the memory has long been absent from my mind. I know that I was two years old, and post-holiday gloom loomed over our heads as the cheerful decorations went back into hiding in the back corner of our basement where they would stay for the next ten months, and the freshly fallen Christmas snow turned into a brown mess of sludge. The last sounds of “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio just didn’t play with the same cheerful tone as they had only days before. They instead carried a slightly sour sound, a bitter reminder that Christmas was now only a memory and an extremely distant dream. The small, stuffed bear that my mom had received as a Christmas gift from one of her students was among the various nick-knacks that had been neatly packed away and stored in our basement. But as I lay in bed that night, I only saw the perfect picture of that brown bear in my mind. My blankets didn’t seem to provide me with substantial warmth, and the array of other stuffed animals that lined my shelves were each another terrible reminder that Brown Teddy no longer inhabited his post on the hearth where I had found him every day for the past three weeks.
Brown Teddy was stuffed with magic stuffing that brought him to life and made him my best friend. Our first Christmas together consisted of constant companionship. He helped me enjoy each and every one of my new toys that had been left under the large tree in our living room. He was my assistant chef when we played with my Little Tykes kitchen, and he enjoyed watching me put together my new life-sized Barney floor puzzle. So on this wintry and dreary night in early January, the night only seemed darker and the frost on my bedroom window colder. After at least an hour of constant screams and pleas for Brown Teddy, and numerous refusals for other stuffed animals because they were now what I wanted, my mom finally gave in and grudgingly stomped down the basement steps to the back end of the concrete room where my friend’s brown box had taken up residence earlier that very day. And as he returned to my loving embrace, everything felt right again. He became my continuous cohort for many years to come.
I lost him when I was five. One minute, we were playing happily in my bedroom, and minutes later he seemed to have vanished completely. I frantically ran through my house, looking under my bed, on the couch, in my parents’ room, in my toy box, but with no prevail. Brown Teddy, my best friend, had run away. Who would chase away the monsters? Who would comfort me during the storms? Who would be my friend? In my innocent five-year-old mind, the only logical explanation was that he no longer wanted to be my friend. Brown Teddy had gone off and found another little girl who had better toys or darker hair. After what seemed like days of endless searching around the couch, under the kitchen table, and in my playroom, I finally found him, resting peacefully behind the rocking chair in my bedroom, right where I had
left him earlier. He had never left me; he had only waited for me to come back to him. He needed me as much as I needed him.
* * *
Brown Teddy no longer sleeps in my bed every night. We don’t play “dress-up” and “house” together anymore. His fur is now matted down, no longer soft, and it covers his small smile that has been pressed in by years of hugs and love. The cloth covering his button nose has ripped, exposing the smooth plastic below it. His right ear is slightly larger than his left, a scar from my phase of chewing on anything that would fit in my tiny mouth. There is a hole on his left leg, and his bowtie has become droopy. But when I wake up at 2:30 in the morning to the terrifying crash of thunder and the blinding flashes of lightning, Brown Teddy is within arm’s reach; ready for my tight embrace. When the rest of the world seems to walk out on me and leave me alone, I know that I will always have him. He is there whenever I need him. Maybe that is all we really need in this world, a friend to hold onto when we are feeling alone