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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller


There is no love so deep
As a child’s devotion to her teddy bear.
Dr. Spock

When I was almost three, my mother said, “I have a treat for you, today, Lynnie Ruth. You are going to meet Sandy’s new brother.”

Sandy was my favorite cousin. She was everything I wasn’t: beautiful, confident and fully capable of living in the real world, while I was a child who lived in a magic place inside my head filled with fairies, rainbows and chocolate candy that grew on trees. “Where did she buy him?” I asked.

Mama bundled me into my navy blue coat and tied a velvet bonnet under my chin. “She didn’t buy him,” she said. “Aunt Sally brought him from heaven. Now he’s at Mercy Hospital; the same place you were born.”

“Did you buy me in heaven, too?” I asked.

My mother frowned. ”Not exactly,” she said.

The two of us walked into the hospital and took an elevator to the sixth floor. We entered a room filled with flowers. My Aunt Sally was sitting up in the bed holding a blue blanket filled with something egg shaped. “What’s in there?” I asked my mother and she laughed.

“That’s Brucie!” she said. “Sandy’s new brother. Do you want to see him?”

She lifted me up and my Aunt Sally pulled aside the blanket so I could see Brucie’s face. His skin looked golden as fresh peaches and he smelled like sweet honeysuckle. His tiny head was covered with soft blond fuzz that felt like little feathers when I touched it. He gurgled and smiled with so much happiness that I giggled. “Oh I just love him!” I exclaimed. ”Can I take him home?”

My mother laughed. “Of course you can’t,” she said. “He belongs to Sandy and Aunt Sally. You can visit him, though.”

My eyes filled with tears. “Why can’t I have him?” I cried, “He’s beautiful.”

I was very quiet when we left the hospital and that night when I closed my eyes, I saw a procession of pudgy pink and white Brucies, parading across my counterpane. When I reached out to grab one, they all vanished. I put my thumb in my mouth and let my tears drip down my cheeks. ”Please may I have a Brucie of my own?” I whispered to the good fairy that lived in my heart. “Please?”

A few days later, my mother woke me up and said, “I have a lovely surprise for you Lynnie Ruth.”

I shook the sleep from my eyes. “Did you buy me a Brucie?” I asked.

She shook her head. Somehow I felt I had spoiled her pleasure but I didn’t know why. “I brought you a different kind of friend,” she said. “A teddy bear.”

In those days, teddies had rough, bristly skin, pointed noses and beady eyes that looked at you as if they could read your mind. I examined the little stuffed animal in the pretty box my mother gave me and I shook my head. “He isn’t as pretty as Aunt Sally’s Brucie, but he’s awfully sweet,” I said.

I rubbed my face against his rough fur and suddenly I knew that this little animal was just the companion I needed to share the long lonely hours when no one had time to read to me and my mother made me play all alone. I hugged the stuffed bear again and rested my face against his. “Are you going to give your teddy bear a name?” asked my mother and I nodded.

“I’m going to call him BRUCIE,” I said. “And I will love him forever. Look Mama! He even has a little pink tongue.”

From that moment until well into grade school, I took Brucie with me wherever I went. I needed his comfort when my imaginary blue devils appeared to do their macabre dance in my head. When I finally grew too old to keep Brucie by my side, I sat him on my pillow so I could cuddle him each night. I was a shy child and real playmates frightened me with their blustery ways. Brucie was my best friend.

Years passed and I learned to stand on my own without my childhood playmate. I excelled in school and went on to be the first person in my family to graduate from a major university. The other women in my graduating class received elaborate gifts because their families believed that a college degree was an achievement. I hadn’t thought much about the gift I would receive because I was so elated with the degree itself. I hoped that perhaps my parents would buy me an electric typewriter so I could write down the stories growing inside me even then, but I didn’t think that would happen. They hadn’t made much of a fuss about my graduation and I was resigned to coming home and doing my usual summer work at a day camp before leaving Toledo for a teaching job in Cleveland. My father drove to Ann Arbor to pick me up and we loaded the car with a four-year accumulation of mementoes, books and clothing. We returned home exhausted from the trip and my mother opened the door to greet me. “I have a lovely surprise for you, Lynn Ruth,” she said and she pointed to a toy bear with a pink ribbon around its neck. It was sitting in the middle of our living room couch.

I looked at the stuffed animal and I knew it should ring some kind of bell in my head, but the long drive in the early summer heat had numbed my brain. “What is that?” I asked.

My mother’s smile faded into anguish and her eyes looked suspiciously red. “That‘s Brucie!” she said. “I had him cleaned and freshened up for you.”

Now, I was really puzzled. “Who is Brucie?” I asked and it was my mother’s turn to laugh.

“Brucie is the teddy bear who always comforted you, Lynn Ruth,” she said. “I thought you might like to have him with you when you move to a strange place to start your new job.”

I picked up the little bear and looked into his beady eyes and suddenly the familiar consolation I had always felt at his touch overwhelmed me. I had been so afraid of all the new adventures that awaited me and now I had this familiar friend to keep me company once more.

“I thought he’d make a nice graduation present,” she said.

I looked at her anxious face and it was my turn to reassure her. “And you were absolutely right, Mother,” I said. “I don’t think you could have chosen a sweeter gift."

And I was right.

Everyone knows you are never too old
To love a teddy bear.
Sigmund Freud’s mother

Lynn Ruth Miller

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