Theodore B. Bear was no ordinary animal. A magical man had bent and twisted him into existence out of thin air.
Laura squirmed with anticipation as the magical man put a tulip on Theodore’s arm and made him dance for all to see.
Even in her party hat with pink frosting dried to her cheek, Theodore thought Laura looked beautiful.
Finally the magical man offered Theodore to her. She grabbed him and hugged him so tight he almost burst.
“Mommy, look!” Laura said.
“Neat!” her Mom said as she tried to clean the frosting off her daughter. “What are you going to name him?”
Laura paused in thought.”He needs a special name,” she said. She looked thoughtfully into his eyes.
“How about Teddy?” her Mom asked.
“Mom,” she said brushing away her mother’s silliness, “He’s too smart and refined for that… I know, how about Theodore? Theodore B. Bear?”
“Sounds great,” Mom said. She dabbed a napkin with her tongue and went after Laura’s cheek with renewed gusto.
“What’s the smart and refined ‘B’ stand for?” Mom asked.
Laura smiled. “I haven’t decided yet,” she said.
Laura and Theodore went everywhere together, to the park, to the store, even to school.
Laura and Theodore played. They laughed. They enjoyed every minute together.
Laura loved Theodore and he loved her too, in every way latex and air can love.
One morning, Theodore had a pain in his leg.
Soon the leg shriveled to a small nub.
His tulip too, crinkled and deflated.
“Balloons don’t last forever,” Mom said.
Laura cried at first, but she knew she had to be strong for Theodore. She fashioned a cardboard crutch for him.
All that day she had Theodore play the role of the patient with a diseased leg while she played the brilliant but jet lagged doctor who tried to reconstruct his leg using an untested but promising surgical procedure.
And Theodore was happy.
But by then he knew it wouldn’t last, couldn’t last. The next morning his other leg began to shrivel and fade.
As he lay there leaking, Laura came by and picked him up. She hugged him one last time, so hard he really did burst.
But Theodore didn’t mind so much.
Laura laid him to rest in her baby sister’s shoe box with tears and a tiny eulogy.
“I’ll miss you Theodore,” she said. “You were a wonderful friend. And…” she paused as the tears flowed.
“I never told you…” She continued, “the ‘B’… it… it stands for..,”
Theodore was so shriveled now his ears could hardly hear. He pushed what air was left in his body toward his ears.
“It stands for ‘Beloved’.” She touched his deflated head and kissed her best friend goodbye.
Theodore Beloved Bear was born on Saturday and died on Thursday, but in between those dates was happiness and laughter and joy and the unapologetic, unearned, unconditional love of a child. May we all be so lucky.