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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« At least it was invisible. | Main | The suburbs are tougher than I thought. »
Monday
Jul092007

RIP, Minty Bear.

We have returned from Montauk, full of sandy, lobster-rolly memories, but missing a beloved member of our family: Minty Bear.

Henry and his Minty Bear.

Henry and Minty Bear.

I bought Minty Bear--so named for her pastel-green hue—when I was five months pregnant. When I didn't yet understand that when you have a baby, the world dumps truckloads of stuffed animals over your head. When I couldn't have predicted that within months we would be cramming animals into industrial-sized plastic bags and hauling them to the Salvation Army, where they would join their bereft, plushy brethren.

Anyway, when Henry was an infant we kept Minty Bear in his crib, because it didn't have any pull-out eyes or pop-'em-off buttons or related chokeables. He liked it fine, but then again he was also smitten with the ceiling fan, and would spend hours chuckling at it. There you go again, ceiling fan. Whirling and whirling. Oh, ceiling fan, you are a minx. But as the months passed he developed a decided preference for Minty over the ten or so stuffed animals that we had room for. Sure, he had the occasional fling with Black Bear or Teensy the Elephant. There was that weird jag with Tup Tup, the hard-bodied, scratchy-furred Siamese Cat Steiff. But in the end, he always came back to Minty.

The Minty/Henry bond was only strengthened over the years. Every night, he gathered Minty Bear in his arms and hunkered down on top of her. Every morning, he dragged her out of bed and downstairs to join him in buildng his mighty Lego Army, occasionally stopping to kiss her ears and murmur her name. He enjoyed discussing her positive attributes: her softness, her excellent smell. (A smell built up from countless nights of either drooling or peeing on her—or, hell, both--which no amount of washing could totally expunge.) She was his baby. His words.

The night we returned from Montauk, Scott asked me, as he does most nights, where Minty Bear had gone to. Henry made do that night with Black Bear while the two of us searched. And searched and searched. And I realized that at the hotel, I had failed to execute a final under-the-bed search before we left, although I had checked every other nook and cranny of the room. I called the hotel. The woman who answered the phone promised to call if it was found, but when I offered to give her a description, she just said, "It's a bear. Got it," and hung up. I didn't hold out much hope.

The next morning we told Henry that Minty Bear was probably gone for good. He asked me to call the hotel again, which I did. No luck. He nodded and said, "Okay, next we need to call the police." I tried to explain that typically the police weren't called in such matters. That's when his lower lip started trembling. "You mean I'll never see her again? Not even when I die?"

It went on like that for a while. He wept for her and also recited poetry on the spot about Minty Bear "going to sea" while his heart "blew up." He had us both in tears by the end when he sang a song called "Bye Minty/Bye Henry," in which both bear and boy bid each other adieu, forever and ever. (He sang both parts.)

Then he asked me to call the hotel again.

He seemed to recover after that, although he had moments—moments in which he demanded that I look at him as his eyes spilled big fat teardrops and he whispered "I'll never see Minty again." My own heart was blowing up. I called the hotel a few more times. They didn't ask me not to call again, but they thought it.

Then, yesterday, we found another Minty Bear. We were at a toy store, finding a present for another child, a child whose parents have probably never misplaced that child's best friend and soulmate, when I spied Minty Bear II on a shelf. I picked it up. I wasn't sure if this was a good move.

"Henry?" I said, and showed it to him. He looked it over, gave it a hug."It doesn't feel right," he said. "It feels too fat." He looked at it some more. "No, it's good. I think we should take it."

But on the way home he wept more for Minty Bear, and I doubted the wisdom of the purchase. "Oh Minty," he keened. "Gone forever."

"Maybe we should tell this Minty Bear about the other one, so she knows how special she was to you."

Nothing from the backseat. Then: "You go first."

So I told Minty Bear II all about Minty Bear I. How I had found her in a store when Henry wasn't born yet, and I knew she was meant to be his bear. How much Henry loved her. How he loved to smell her ears, which smelled like stale little-boy pee (I didn't say that part). And how she was his baby.

Then I kept going. I said that Minty Bear loved Henry so much that she told all her relatives about him, about this great deal she had with this amazing little boy. And her relatives were jealous. Why do you get all that love when we're stuck in this toy store? they wondered. So she cut a deal with one of her cousins, a bear who happened to be waiting for a boy of his own in New Jersey, of all places. I've had plenty of good years, she told her cousin, so I'll take off and maybe, just maybe, they'll find you. And that's just what happened. And in this way Henry made two bears very, very happy.

He was suspiciously quiet. Was he sleeping? I pulled up to the house and turned around. He was staring at the bear. He looked at me. "We did a good thing," he said. He kissed the new Minty Bear's ears, and closed his eyes.

Reader Comments (199)

Wow. Excellent post. At the risk of sounding too cheesy, this is why I create things in plush- I've just never been able to say it so well.I am SO going to be designing non-chokable creatures soon- I never saw a reason to before.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterClaire
My nephew left his stuffed dog on a plane when he was about three, and when my sister called the airline to see if there was ANY way they could locate it, she neglected to emphasize the fact that it was merely a stuffed animal AND THEY GROUNDED THE PLANE to look for a lost dog.

We may have taken a plane down, but we never managed to find the dog, who was named Menonee for reasons known only to my nephew.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJake
Ach. What love.

I saw this tip in a magazine long ago before I had kids, and, due to my own childhood trauma it stuck with me. It was to get an id tag, the kind you put on pets, and attach it to a collar or ribbon to put around the loved plush toy's neck (or similar appendage). Perhaps someday we will be able to microchip them too.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLetterB
I don't know how you'll work your way through 128 comments to find mine, but this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Thank you. That's all I can muster.

xoxo
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennie
What a sweet and moving story.

we posted your story on our blogwww.plushteam.comwe are a group of plush/doll makers and sometimes need to be reminded of why we make what we do. Thanks for the story!
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterplushteam
Dammit Alice, grown men aren't supposed to get all wet-eyed and stuff. That was beautiful.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
Wonderful story and great comments too.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMauigirl52
I like so many others here reacted so strongly to this that I can't help but air my own story . I had Fred, Fred Med and Owl, and dozens more, but those three always knew I loved them best, and the guild of that unfair love, oh it plagued me. Fred Med got lost for EONS (although in retrospect I think it might have only been a year)only to be found behind the freezer we kept in the garage. And I swear to you, even now 20 years later he still doesn't smell right. The smell, it is important. You can't deny it. This was only slightly more traumatic than the summer car trip vacation where I realized I had left Fred at home due to my COMPLETE AND TOTAL NEGLECT AS A MOTHER. I eventually made a doll from towels and cleverly placed rubber bands and used it as a telepathic conduit between myself and Fred so that he wouldn't feel left out. I think I had a slightly over developed sense of guilt at a young age, mayhaps. What a beautiful post, it's obviously hit a nerve with so many of us, well done.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMara
christ on a pony, alice!! why would you make me cry like that?

pnut has two versions of her blankie *just in case* and lord if i am not going on ebay to find a spare kitty right now. kitty rarely leaves the house i am so scared to lose it- hunting for the thing tossed out of the stroller gives me a case of flopsweat worse than losing my retainer in the 6th grade. yeesh. i still have my chicky, only by the grace of god and what must have been my mom's eagle eye.

you tell henry we'll bring kitty and make a special trip out east and find minty I, damnit!!
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpnutsmama
That boy of yours is truly amazing. What a sweet tender tiny baby love! And nice save Alice!

We have 5 (yes 5) bungees. little bear heads with blankee's for the body. He's in LOVE with these and I feared that if we had only one and it had met the fate of minty bear we'd be hosed.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterurban urchin
I was going to blame the pregnancy hormones for my tears, but hell ... it was the story. So sweet, and so well written.
July 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRuth
Absolutely precious, Alice.
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn
There is a picture in the family album of my sister and me, when we were one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half, respectively, and I'd taken upon myself the awesome responsibility of overseeing our two teddybears while we travelled with our mother and grandparents. I was apparently quite committed to the surveillance and retention of our bears.
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle D
I have a "bot", it's my baby blanket my cousin crocheted for me. It went everywhere with me when I was a kid...and I still ahve it and it lives under my pillow for safe keeping..it's a wreck at this point but I still love it to this day.I'm sorry for Henry's loss but look on the bright side...he handled it remarkably well...replacement and everything. I would've been a mess if that was me.
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLi'l Foot's Mommy
That was such a beautiful tale--tears in my eyss as I drink my coffee. Made me remember my Henry when he was little...
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered Commentervictoria
That was beautiful. We had a close call like that with my daughter's "TT Bear" - luckily, he had just gotten stuck behind the toilet, when I was dreading the thought that he was in a parking lot. It was the hardest thing, telling P that we thought he was gone.

We have a replacement, just in case, but they are worlds apart.

I'm glad you found a "new" Minty. It's the little things that stay with you as a parent, you know?
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennB
I damn near cried in my cubicle. Beautifully written. You inspired me to write about my own kids' loveys. Or just check out the Salon.com post below.

Yak

http://www.salon.com/june97/mothers/daniel970625.html
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterYak
Oh god, I can't even imagine the pain and sorrow of this. I'm so glad he accepted the new Minty Bear. My three-year-old has Baby. An octopus with six rainbow-striped legs and a bell in his head. (He's in a Baby Einstein video!) I'm pretty sure they don't make Baby anymore, though. I've looked online. When Baby has come for a ride with us to a store, I've often worried what would happen if the car were stolen with Baby in it--we could always buy another car . . .
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCamille
When I was about 6 my family was on a trip to England when I left my favorite bear, "bear-bear" on the tube. My mother realized this only in time to turn and watch the doors snap closed with a force that could take off an arm. I cried for HOURS that night for bear-bear but with us being in England (he was bought in America) and also that it was the middle of the night, finding a replacement was out of the question. About 10 years later my dad saw some girl at Wal-Mart carrying around a "bear-bear" and actually tried to buy it off of her. It nearly broke my heart when he told me this, even though by then I was 16. Some things you just never get over...
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRis
That is the saddest thing I have read in quite awhile and Ill have you know, I am at work, and I am crying at my desk.A little because I am fond of Henry (as fond as I can be for someone who doesnt actually KNOW this kid, but he reminds me of my own...)But mostly for myself as I have had a Bear since birth (it is now 32 years old) and still, If I ever lost it? I would be crushed. My heart would blow up.
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjen
*sniff* So lovely. Thanks.
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMandy
OMG, a beautiful post. And like many others, I too have a tale to share.

Daughter has a very beloved lime green kitty named "key lime". Last summer key lime was run over by the stroller in the reddest mud ever. I was worried she'd never wash. Thankfully, she did, but I decided then that I needed a backup. I worked the backup into rotation and after awhile we had two nearly identical key limes. My plan worked well for almost a year. Until daughter saw the other. Now she has to have both all the time. And since she can't say "other" but says "yellow", it's name is "lemon meringue".
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine
Curse you and your damn cute story and your damn cute kid - you made me smile and cry at the same time.

Long live Minty II
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternicola
Too many lost love stories here :) I lost my Cabbage Patch (Beth Anne) when I was 8. We were moving across country after my parent's divorce and she got left at a hotel.

When I was pregnant with my son I used to have terrible terrbile dreams were I ended up leaving him somewhere because of the trauma of it. Some things you just never get over. I've looked high and low for a replacement Beth Anne but to no avail.....Ebay, swapmeets return zippo.



July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
I've been reading your blog a long, long time, and this has got to be my favorite entry so far. Great writing!
July 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

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