On Mother’s Day, I went home to garden with my mom. After digging around with the worms for a bit, I wandered next door to our neighbors who had just returned from lunch with Linda’s 92-year-old mother, Jeanne. About a week ago, Linda was going through old toys and found her mother’s childhood bear, a brown button-eyed creature with washers as leg joints and fur all worn away. The bear wore a white gown with a hand-crocheted picture of a bear waving a bell. Jeanne’s mother had made the gown.
"Oh hello you, it’s been quite a while," Jeanne said to the bear. "We’ll have to put you with all the new toys where you can be the grandpa bear."
She turned it over in her hands and fingered the ears which looked as though they’d been sewn over many times.
"I used to carry him around by his ears." Jeanne said.
In The Velveteen Rabbit, a toy bunny longs to be “real” like the wild rabbits he encounters in the woods. It’s only at the story’s end, when the rabbit’s velveteen fur has rubbed away and his eyes have fallen out, that he realizes it’s love that makes you real. The whole of you is developed through loving - sacrificing and losing parts of yourself in order to gain parts of another.
I saw Jeanne’s bear, but I also saw the washers, firmly attached to the toy’s legs by her father. And the detailed little red bell sewn by her mother.
A pillar of love calling out from a century past.