I have, on my studio couch, a teddy bear. He is small, about the size of my two hands laid side by side. He smells like dust, and he is old, older than me.
I don’t know who gave him to me. All I know is he has always been with me.
I used to think he was my sister’s bear, her toy that had somehow ended up in my collection of childhood memories. One day I mentioned him to my Mom, and she told me with certainty that the small fuzzy purple teddy who now smells like dust was absolutely, definitely mine, a gift at my birth.
Here is a memory I do not remember, yet it exists. The physical proof sits here in my studio, this bear who I should know.
How strange that I can have memories I do not recall. Do I remember this tiny bear on my bed in our home, when I was not yet old enough to go to school? Sort of, yet I am not sure if this is a manufactured memory, or something true. I know his feel against my hands and face, and I know he did not always smell like dust. He smelled like someone’s perfume at one point in my childhood. I can smell it now, as I write.
Yes, my Nana’s perfume. I feel like this bear was with me at my Nana and Papa’s house, when I was very young. I was staying with them. I don’t know where my Mom and Dad were. Maybe visiting friends, maybe at a dance and coming home very late. My parents loved to dance.
The only thing I am completely sure of here is this bear, who I didn’t remember was mine, smelled like my Nana’s perfume. How odd.
Memories are such strange things. That I can recall with clarity this one small detail out of what must have been a thousand details lost to me.
This bear is now faded to the colour of lilacs at the end of their life. I can see in the creases of his arms and legs and neck that his fur was once bright, more like the colour of the amethyst I have on the shelf behind me. A colour carrying light and love. Bright, deep, true purple, a joy to behold.
Why can I not recall anything else about my purple teddy?
He must have been precious to me once, if he came with me to my grandparents’ home to stay overnight. I must have taken him to bed with me, slept with him at my side or in the bend of my arm, warm under the blankets.
My Mom must have packed him carefully in my bag. Or maybe he stayed in my arms, or sat next to me, or on my lap as we travelled to Nana and Papa’s house.
I am imagining this ride in the car to my grandparents, imagining staying overnight. Imagining the smell of my Nana’s perfume, which I know was Chanel No. 5, ending up on my teddy bear. Did my Nana hold him, hug him, and her perfume moved from her body to his? Or maybe we dabbed a little on him because I told my Nana she smelled good and I liked how she smelled.
It always made me feel good, the smell of my Nana’s perfume. It makes me feel good now as I recall it, smelling her presence even though she does not stand before me here in my studio.
Maybe this wondrous, mysterious old bear was a gift from my Nana and Papa. Likely my Nana who loved to shop and find perfect, joyful things for herself and those she loved. She loved me, unconditionally. I remember this with certainty.
There is joy in playing with this fraction of a memory about my old, small, purple bear. There is love in this imagining, too.
I see now I have claimed teddy as my own. He is no longer the bear, he is my bear.
With one word, I shift this fraction of a memory and, with love, claim it as mine.
It is a gift, taking this piece of memory and the physical object that began it, and making something whole and perfect. Something that feels like love.
It is love, no doubt of it. As real as my bear who sits on the studio couch.