Thursday, August 17, 2017

Paddington it shall be.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Aw. Love you, Mary Feliz.  We are honored to have you here today.
Reds and readers, grab a cup of tea or coffee. Just–take a minute for this.
   

Two men and their bears...
   By Mary Feliz

When I first spotted Michael Bond holding a Paddington Bear who clearly adored him, I gasped. It was the same noise that might result from being punched in the stomach, but I'd been punched in the heart. Or had my heart squozen so hard the sound splurted out.

I couldn't figure out a way to tie my need to write about the death of Paddington Bear author Michael Bond with a blog about Mystery and Thriller writing. But I knew I couldn't write about anything else.

Michael Bond died in June 2017. My own father had died weeks earlier. Born six months apart, they grew up in the Great Depression and served in World War II. And both had bears they loved, with photos to prove it. Both had enormous respect for children and bears and were dispensers of the unconditional love some people connect to only in dogs or stuffed animals.

My own relationship with Paddington is a meandering one. I didn't grow up with him, but the bear wandered into my life several time. At age eleven, inching beyond the age of wonder but with one foot still firmly anchored in childhood, I discovered the Paddington books. I don't remember the text so much as the illustrations, which looked nothing like bears, as far as I was concerned. With his ears covered by a slouchy hat and a nose that was far too pointy, I thought Paddington resembled a porcupine or muskrat more than a refugee bear. I wrote to the author and told him so. I don't remember receiving a response, but Paddington was a refugee in London and as such needed a hat to keep his ears warm and dry. He's also not the sort of bear who worries about keeping his hair coiffed, or who bothers about spilled marmalade.

Eight years later, I embarked for a year at a British university. While I immersed myself in academics I didn't skimp on sightseeing or gastronomic exploration. I made friends and became part of a community. When I left I was given a stuffed Paddington, which had recently taken toy stores by storm. The shopkeeper instructed my friends that his boots were "specially made for him by Dunlop." My housemates were quite taken by Paddington's wellies, and by the idea that "when you have children, they can wear them." At 19, the idea of children was terrifying, but in little more than a decade, both my children stomped around in Paddington's wellingtons. (Paddington was happy to share.)

Paddington now supervises my writing desk. He kept me company in the days following my father's death, when creativity and sleep escaped me. Bond knew similarly difficult days and credited Paddington with pulling him through, “There is something so upright about Paddington. I wouldn’t want to let him down."

Which brings me to my father's bear. I don't know whether he had a favored soft toy as a child, but he certainly honored those my brother, sister, and I chose as companions. He conversed with them and instructed them to watch over us. He solemnly tucked them in at night when he put us to bed. Many years later, when my husband's mother suffered from dementia, my father suggested a stuffed animal might provide comfort. In her case, we chose a snuggly elephant who protected her when she was in the hospital among strangers and surroundings that were stranger still.

A year or two later Dad's memory began drifting. His hallucinations included gang members who lived in his living room and threatened my mother. As his doctor struggled to find a medication that would banish the gangs, I lived a continent away and scrambled for ways to help. In the wee hours one morning, I decided Amazon could provide a bear to protect my Dad from his demons. (My stuffed Paddington supervised while I logged into my Amazon account. Paddington hales from Peru, which is home to the Amazon River. Coincidence? I think not.)

Did my Dad believe the bear I sent him was real? I don't think so. But, partly to entertain me, he spoke to him in "bear language" and made sure he was tucked in at night with a view of the front door he guarded. When I learned my dad thought 24-hour protection service might be too arduous a chore for a single bear, we adopted a friend. The second bear was smaller, fit under my Dad's chin when he slept, and became known as Rusty. On a dark, rainy night when my Dad fell out of bed, we called paramedics to tuck him back in. When they handed him Rusty (with all the respect a proper bear companion deserves), raindrops shed by their turnout gear had dampened Rusty's fur. My dad noticed. "Rusty! You're all wet! What happened to you?" Full of concern, he dried Rusty gently with a corner of the sheet. "He gave the fireman a hug," I told him. "The fireman's coat was wet because it's raining outside."

"Ahhh," said my father. "Well, you're safe now." And they both fell asleep quickly.

Years ago, I learned that many law enforcement officers stash bears in the trunks of their squad cars to give to youngsters in trouble. In comforting the stuffed toys, the children feel stronger. And while a child might not admit her fears to a stranger, she might be willing to reveal the terrors stalking her bear.

And that brings me full circle, back to talking about writing, characters, and the community we all need to feel safe and connected. Community arises spontaneously among humans even in the most dire of situations because we all feel that need to both give and receive comfort. My mysteries look at what happens when that sense community takes a damaging blow, and what members do to restore the balance between good and evil. While my characters aren't based on real people, I strive to make them seem authentic. Michael Bond felt the same way about Paddington,  “Unless an author believes in his character, no one else is going to."

Whether my father or Bond believed their bears were real isn't important. Both respected bears and people, particularly people in danger of being overlooked. In 2014 when tempers erupted in Europe regarding the influx of refugees, Bond said, "Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.” 

Bond didn't shy away from Paddington's illegal entry into the UK. In the books, the bear's adopted family is ever aware of his risk of deportation. (Paddington reached London after stowing away on a steamer from Darkest Peru.)

After my father's death, friends, neighbors and former co-workers wrote to my mother. Nearly all of them penned some version of this description, "He was a kind and genuine man who helped me when I needed it most." I think the same could be said of Michael Bond and any man who is beloved by a bear. My Dad and Mr. Bond, had a capacity for unconditional love and an ability to embrace the imaginary world that means they both will live forever.

HANK: As I said. Oh, Mary, you are a treasure. And Paddington, too. We talked about him recently, I know…(and our darling Coralee told me where to find an okapi! Thank you!) 

Do you still give stuffed animals as baby  gifts?  Which ones?

And aren't you glad Mary came to visit?

  


Mary Feliz writes the Maggie McDonald Mysteries featuring a Silicon Valley professional organizer and her sidekick golden retriever. She's worked for Fortune 500 firms and mom and pop enterprises, competed in whale boat races and done synchronized swimming. She attends organizing conferences in her character's stead, but Maggie's skills leave her in the dust.

Mary's newest:  

Silicon Valley Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald tackles her toughest case yet when a dear friend is falsely accused of murder. Aside from a depressed mastiff with PDSD, the only witness is an undocumented teen. Should he make a statement and risk deportation or stay mum and let the bad guys run amok? Or can Maggie organize a third solution without putting her friends, her family, and her community at risk? 


108 comments:

  1. Thanks, Mary, for sharing the loving memories and the special thoughts about Paddington and bears in general.

    We love stuffed animals around here . . . recently we found a Pokey Puppy to keep Corduroy company; the grandbabies also have assorted ladybugs and other stuffed treasures [many as companions to a book].
    We do give bears as gifts . . . the newest grandbaby has a pink bear that we bought before she was born. Right now its’s bigger than Mia, but she’s got lots of time to grow. Her big sister had a treasured Lambie beanie baby when she was little; now she wants a bear “as big as me.” That took a bit of doing, but we found a five-foot bear that’s almost the right height to keep her company . . . .

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    1. Oh, so adorable, Joan! I bet that is incredibly cute...

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    2. Joan, we love Corduroy in my house! Especially the adults. I can't stand on the scale without repeating a line from CORDUROY VISITS THE DOCTOR, "Too many cookies, Corduroy!" I'm sure he loves his pokey puppy!

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  2. Mary that's so sweet that Paddington 'supervises' your writing desk. Mine is supervised by a stuff Wild Thing. We have a lovely collection of much loved stuffed animals that our daughters dragged about.

    "...the community we all need to feel safe and connected. " - what a timely topic.

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    1. Hallie, All my books focus on that sense of community we all need. It must be something that resonates with me. (I tried to include a photo here of Paddington keeping watch over my writing, but I guess the comments don't allow that!)

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    2. Supervising a writing desk is an awesome responsibility that calls for an awesome bear, which Paddington is. What a wonderful share! --kate

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  3. What a lovely tale of two men and their bears, Mary. I still have my stuffed dalmatian, Topsy, from my childhood, and he supervises my writing from behind me.

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    1. Oh that's great Edith--how wise of you to keep Topsy!

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    2. My little sister still has her bear. Much patched, I don't think any of his original fur is still showing, and he only has one eye. But he's much loved! I wonder if Topsy was a mashup of Spotty? I donated my original bear, "No Nose" last year, but I still have a picture of him. He earned his name because our puppy got hold of him soon after I unwrapped him. Bear noses aren't essential to giving or receiving love!

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    3. Topsy is most assuredly threadbare and you can barely see any of his spots. He had major abdominal surgery more than once. But that one-way silky fur under his ear, which was stroked a million times while a little girl sucked her thumb? Still there.

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  4. On the rare occasion that I have someone in my life giving birth, I do still give a stuffed animal. It is always a teddy bear, the last one was for my nephew. The bear was named Bob.

    I'd also give my niece (who is now 18) a stuffed animal of some sort for any holiday which called for a gift. But that's when I went a little above and beyond. She wouldn't just get the stuffed animal, but I would write a brief story, in the form of a letter, from someone connected to the holiday theme. And each letter would reference the one before it so there was a sense of continuity. But I would make them someone off the beaten path, like Vinnie The Valentine Substitute, or some random elf who would talk about Mrs. Claus's Christmas cookies at breaktime, a letter from the land of Peppermint Reindeer and one from King Brien of the Leprechauns.

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    1. Jay, that is fantastic! Oh, my gosh, those letter are complete treasures..and what a great idea!

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    2. What a fantastic tradition of gifts you had for your niece. And Bob is a great name for a bear!

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    3. Hank, I have copies of all the letters I wrote for my niece. Everyone who read them said I should write a children's story but I think we all know where my real writing interest lies.

      I even got asked a few times to write Xmas letters for other people's kids including one where Santa had to explain to a 3 year old why he wasn't getting a horse that he wanted.

      Another time a high school friend's daughter got sick and couldn't go out for Halloween. So I sent two big bags of candy, some comics and a letter from Jack O. Lantern, Chief Pumpkin Duster to her.

      Mary, thanks. It lasted until she was 9 years old. As for naming the bear Bob, there's a mildly amusing/slightly irritating reason to why the bear got that name.

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    4. You are a man of many skills, Jay! I would love to hear more about this…

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  5. How lovely about your father and his bears, Mary! I have always loved stuffed animals, although my collection is in hiding right now, as I have a pack of dogs who can't tell a hand-sewn stuffed dragon from a $2 stuffed pumpkin from PetSmart. I do believe in the comforting power of bears. Years ago I gave one to my niece, along with a story, and she still keeps him by her bed to guard her dreams. I also brought stuffed bears (with suitably printed logo tees, of course) into the children's unit at the hospital where I used to serve as PR director. Each child got a bear when he or she was admitted, and even the older children clung to them in the weird, stressful days while they were at the hospital. The nurses told me they could demonstrate shots, IVs, and other procedures on the bear so the child would understand what was going to happen next. We even put together a little coloring book featuring the bear, and telling a little story about all the different departments of the hospital--ER, radiology, etc.--so kids could understand it all a little better. They don't hand out bears at my former hospital anymore, but I heard through the grapevine that, when one of our patients was transferred to a large, regional children's hospital, he took his bear with him. His nurses asked about it, so he explained, and before long the regional children's hospital was handing out bears to their patients.

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    1. GIgi, that is such a good story..and isn't it interesting how comforting they are? And brilliant to do a book! When Jonathan had heart surgery some years ago, they gave him a stuffed--heart! I guess that;s a way to give adults something to hold that's not embarrassing. He still has it. Well, I do, I guess. :-)

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    2. That's a wonderful story, GiGi. It's hard to know all the benefits when we do something nice for someone. Besides the fact that it often helps the helper as much as the helpee, the ripples are endless. I read an article about care home in CT that gives out stuffed puppies and kittens to those on its memory unit. That need to nurture is something we all carry, even when we've forgotten who we are.

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    3. That's cool, Mary. If I ever wind up in a care home, I'll definitely hope for one with a real, live dog or cat, but a stuffed one would work well, too. What a great idea!

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  6. Mary, thanks so much for your insights. I'm sorry for the loss of your father. Our older son had a stuffed Paddington. Before he spoke well he called it "Pad Bear," and so of course that's what we called it thereafter.

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    1. I wonder if Pad Bear loved a good Pad Thai? In one of my favorite episodes of Midsomer Murders, the new baby has an essential companion named "Pink Ted." And thanks so much for your comfort regarding my dad. This grief business has not at all been what I expected. No bad, not good, just unexpected.

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  7. I haven't given a baby gift in years. But I have a whole shelf of Gund bears. The largest, the pink one, has comforted both my children many times over the years.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. What is it about the Gunds? They are very special...

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    2. I have no idea. They are so soft and squishable and just...wonderful. I used to make it a habit to buy a new one in every city I visited and name it after that city.

      Mary/Liz

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    3. The Gunds I bought my dad are called "Snuffles". When you hold him closely to your chest, he looks up with a gaze full of love. I don't know who designed him to plant his cute little squishy butt so firmly on a surface and provided that adorable gaze, but they were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

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    4. OMG, Mary F that's what my pink bear is called - Snuffles!

      Mary/Liz

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  8. Mary, thank you for sharing about the bears. I'm glad you have a bear to watch over you. Years ago, I did a series of writing workshops at AIDS Healing Weekends--and was given a little brown bear in a goody bag. I gave Gary bear to my mom when she came home from the hospital. Every night, when we tucked her into bed, Gary bear was placed on a pillow next to her. "That little bear," she said one night, "is so full of love." He was accompanied by Bruno, a tiny little bear just big enough to fit in the palm of her hand. My sister had the bright idea of giving my mom Bruno to squeeze in the hospital during her blood draws--which were extremely hard on her and the medical personnel who had to inflict them on her--it was hard to tell who appreciated Bruno more.

    I'll be looking for your series--am always grateful to the Reds for all the new-to-me authors I discover here!

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    1. That is lovely, Flora. (I love the name Gary bear.) It's so sweet to hear these bear stories!

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    2. Oh, Flora, I'm certain Bruno was a big help to the medical staff. And what a great idea!! And, if you're just starting my series, Address to Die For is the first book, followed by Scheduled to Death, and then Dead Storage. The first book is on sale right now on all ebook outlets for 99c. I'm not sure how long the sale will last. The publisher looks after all of that for me.

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  9. My favorite stuffed animal gift is a little lighted seahorse than plays classical music, was a miracle for settling my littlest grandsons.

    Thanks Mary for your sweet story about Paddington, always a favorite.

    Besides the comfort of bears, there are now little kittens who purr and stretch when petted, and these provide much solace for residents in nursing homes. Also, most all the ones in my area have live-in animals, dogs, cats, birds, etc. Then there are the therapy dogs who visit. My Toby was one, and when were were actively volunteering, we carried a case load of 6-8 hospice patients. He was wonderful, and he knew when someone was dying, would be very reluctant to leave them.

    All creatures great and small, breathing or stuffed, so soothing and healing.

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    1. SO true, Ann. Toby--what a great dog. I wish we could understand what they are thinking--but it does feel like pure love!

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    2. I'm currently pet-less, but hope to one day have a dog again and visiting hospice patients is something I'd very much like to do. (I'm trying not to be jealous, but I want a little lighted seahorse that plays classical music!)

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  10. oh, Mary. no words for how much your piece touched me. thank you

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    1. Thank you, Kaye. It was hard to write, but I'm glad I did (though I wish I'd wrangled some of those typos better! Arghh!) I wasn't sure it would be a good fit for a Murder and Mayhem blog, but apparently bears and books go together in many people's minds!

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  11. Mary, welcome to Jungle Reds! I am so glad I stopped by today. I had a Paddington Bear when I was three years old. I remember holding my Paddington Bear when I went to see the doctor. I did not like doctors because I had spent 7 weeks in ICU in Children's Hospital. My Paddington Bear was my protector and my security blanket.

    I remember reading stories about a member of the British Royal Family buying Paddington Bears for her kids.

    Diana

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    1. Thanks so much, Diana! Another story I love about Paddington is that the bears in their wellies (which they needed to stand up) were created my the mother of British Celebrity Jeremy Clarkson. He and his sister were the first to receive the bears. Jeremy has found himself in a little trouble in recent years, but his show, Top Gear, was a favorite among my husband and two boys. I vaguely remember the story about the royal family and the bears. I think it might have been Fergie who bought them. I wasn't able to confirm that, but I discovered that a Paddington Bear was the gift that English "Chunnel" diggers presented to French diggers when they connected the tunnel in the middle.

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    2. Oh, Mary, I love that about the Chunnel!!!! And I wonder what the French gave the English?

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    3. Paddington does such a great job at that, Bibliophile!

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  12. What a lovely shared memory. It was a delight to sit with my cup of coffee and read through this post. There's so much unrest in the world at the moment that I think we all stay in need of comfort. And having a trip down memory lane guided by a Paddington bear was perfect. I have a friend expecting her first grandchild soon, and hers will be welcomed by Winnie the Pooh. Fuzzy bears, no matter their moniker, give all of us comfort in the time of storms. Thank you for sharing your story, Mary...it was a lovely way to begin the day...and left me with the overwhelming desire to perch my stuffed bear near my computer...so, I'm off to gather him up and plop him beside me :)

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    1. We all need bears today. Pooh is one of my favorites! Silly old bear. Perhaps we need to start a charity that would present bears to all world leaders as they begin their administrations. Couldn't hurt!

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    2. Yeah, Pooh. Silly old bear. Loretta, say hi to yours from us!

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  13. Mary, what a lovely piece! I too am a big fan of Paddington and mourned Michael Bond's passing. When my mother was dying we tucked a bear into bed with her. She named it Edward Bear Bedfellow and I remember hugging it after she was gone.

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    1. Oh wow Rhys! What a great name for a bear! And how wonderful that he comforted you as well has your mum! That need to give and receive comfort is important at any age. My mother-in-law had the elephant I mentioned, but she also had a quilt that I made. The backing is the same as the one popular for baby blankets. She stroked it when she was anxious. It was a wonderful clue that let all of us know she was in need of a little comfort and reassurance.

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  14. That last comment was Rhys. My Google profile keeps reverting to Jungle Reds!

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  15. The power of bears. We kept several of them in the ambulance. I remember one night we picked up an elderly man who had fallen sometime in the night and had a possible (he did) hip fracture. We had to take him into Vegas (a 65 mile trip). The bears were for children; my partner and I decided he should have one. We chose one of the large ones. It calmed him down. When we got to Vegas, he gave it a hug and offered it back; we told him it was his. You would have thought it was Christmas morning.
    Thank you for sharing this and bringing that memory back to me. Such a lovely blog.
    Oh, I have a bear that rides in my car with me. Maybe, it's time he came in and joined me at my desk. Although, I think/believe he is the caretaker and safekeeper of my car.

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    1. Hi Holly! As I found with my Dad, it's best not to spread that bear power too thin. I'd recommend leaving your car bear in the car and in the job he clearly does well. And get a new bear to help with your writing, which can be a terrifying business requiring bear skills! (I love the story about the man in the ambulance. You were so astute to realize he needed a bear. Perhaps bears are the answer to the opiod crisis. It would be an interesting (and fun) research project to find out!

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    2. I agree--I think he's a car bear, Holly!

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  16. I'm got tears in my eyes. What a lovely post. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. All these bear stories are wonderful...and bringing tears to my eyes too!

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    2. Such a great day in the jungle--but wait, bears in the jungle?

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    3. Paddington hails from "Darkest Peru" that sounds jungle-ish, doesn't it?

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  17. What a gorgeous post. My sympathies on losing your dad, who was, I know, a spectacular guy.

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    1. Thank you, Kaye. And thank you so much for your support over the past few months. You may be part bear. :-)

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    2. And Kaye, we are all your bears right now… Love you!

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  18. Such a poignant story, Mary. Thank you for sharing it.

    I never had a bear, myself, but I made them for my children: a Winnie the Pooh, who also had Tigger, Kanga and Roo to keep him company; a Paddington bear, complete with hat and coat (but no boots, for shame), and a sweet little stuffed bear chair just the right size for toddlers. My grandson has lots of bears, and even at age 12 he drags one along with him when he comes here, or when they go to their weekend place. He's not very imaginative about naming them, I'm afraid. A polar bear is "Poley"; a panda bear is "Pandy". But he does love his soft and squashies, and they help calm his ADHD anxieties.

    When my grandmother was 90, nearly blind from macular degeneration, and losing her mental capacity, a bear helped her, as well. After she died my mother took Grandma's lovely mink coat and had teddies made from the fur for herself and two of her sisters.

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    1. What a wonderful use for a mink coat! I'm sure your grandson's bears are loving and beloved, no matter what they are called. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

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    2. Awww..

      And Karen ! You are the winner of Kathleen Valenti's book! Email me and I will send your address along to her!
      Congratulations…

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    3. Thank you, Hank! I will get in touch, forthwith.

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    4. Kathleen, when I was a child in the 50's I had a stuffed cat, I think it was. It must have been made of rabbit fur, and when it was wet it had a distinct smell, not quite unpleasant, but just weird enough that I can still smell it, 60+ years later. I don't think fur is quite the thing for a lovey, but it gave great comfort to my mother and aunts.

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  19. I'm thinking my Sleepy Dog should move from the top of the bookshelf to a place of honor. When my father died in June 2016, he snuggled with a stuffed rabbit he had treasured as a toddler. I have pictures of him with it at age 1 and 93.
    Looking forward to reading your newest book too!

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    1. Oh Susan, your story is wonderful. I would be honored to see those pictures of your father next time I see you. What a treasure!

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    2. Oh my goodness, that is so touching, Susan…

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  21. My older brother and I each had a teddy bear; his was brown, mine blondish. And I'd forgotten I had a panda bear that was almost as big as me. I got it for my 4th or 5th birthday. Years later my mom got rid of all stuffed animals in the house. Our middle sister was allergic so that was that. Not fair! My son's chosen companion was an ewok. The couple of stuffed animals I have now are both Curious George. CG reminds me of my son and the trouble he would get into.

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    1. Oh, that's too bad about the stuffed animals! You can get rid of the dust mites by throwing them in the dryer! Or by keeping them in a plastic bag for a time period I've forgotten. I love Curious George, too. My husband's name is George and he was born in the jungle in what's now Bangladesh while his father was helping to build a dam, which makes him both George of the Jungle and just like Curious George! He has a mischievous side, but luckily does not get into quite as much trouble as George the monkey.

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    2. Siblings! Always causing problems! :-)

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  22. What a lovely tribute, both to your sweet Dad and to Michael Bond and Paddington. I have a British friend who gives all of his American friends who have children Paddington Bears, and they are all treasured ~

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    1. What a great "British" gift for your friend to bestow. My grandmother used to give all little girls a Raggedy Ann. I don't think those dolls are as popular now as they once were. I had one I loved dearly.

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    2. Oh, I had a Raggedy Ann too! With the little heart underneath her dress?

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    3. Of course, Hank. My best friend had one too. One day she took mine and threw it in a mud puddle, and my Annie always looked fashionably tanned after that. I can't remember what our argument was about. (But it still makes me mad!) Luckily, we were able to forgive each other and remained friends!

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  23. My condolences, Mary, on losing your dad. I hope that your sweet memories of him give you comfort. I have a stuffed elephant from childhood that is literally falling apart, but of course, I can't bear (ha!) to part with him. My youngest nephew gave me a little stuffed elephant to put in my office and "help me when writing is hard." He has a place of honor near my forensic reference books!

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    1. I love these stories about the comfort soft toys bring. I also have a small (hand sized) golden retriever pup that is my muse. I think he'd get scared if I put him next to my forensic books though! Currently, he seems to be resting his chin on my ear phones!

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    2. I'm thinking about this… I do not have a stuffed animal on my writing desk, but I do have a rock. Did I just invent pet rocks? ( I mean, again… )

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    3. The thing about rocks is...they're such rocks. Steadfast. Bold. They don't nag.

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  24. What a beautiful essay, Mary. It brought tears to my eyes.

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    1. Hi Lourdes! Wonderful to see you here today! And thank you for your comment… xxxx

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    2. Thank you, Lourdes! How wonderful to kinda sorta visit with you today!

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  25. Mary, your piece brought tears to my eyes, too. My condolences on the death of your dad. My dad died at 96. He'd had dementia the last few years, and was quite blind by that time. I suppose I thought I had done most of my grieving before he passed away. But for years afterwards (and occasionally, still) some tiny thing would make me burst into unexpected tears. Grief is just a funny thing, isn't it? I do wish my dad had had a bear.

    I was the one who wrote about Michael Bond, anglophile that I am and dedicated Paddington lover. My Paddington is a "retro" bear--black hat, dull blue coat, no boots. He had pride of place on my chaise but I'm thinking he needs to come down and oversee my desk. My daughter's Paddington had the yellow slicker and yellow rain hat--I couldn't count the times we snapped that slicker on and off. My now grown-up daughter has kept her "Horsey," a blue plush carousel horse she'd had since she was a toddler, and my granddaughter has "Pinto" a little Jellycat stuffed horse (a gift from me!) AND she will be getting her own Paddington when I go to London next month. We already have a Paddington board book to read.

    My stuffed animal companion is Bob, a green elephant. (For readers of the books, Charlotte's Bob is his double.)

    Mary, thanks for the tips on your books--I've just ordered the first one! And thanks so much for the sweet and thoughtful post. I think everyone everywhere should have a bear.

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    1. Aw, Debs, that's sweet of you to share this about Bob. Now I'll think of you when I read about Charlotte for another reason altogether.

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  26. What a beautiful, heartfelt story. It brought tears to my eyes and reminded me so vividly of my best friend when I was a child, a white stuffed bear I named Hogi (to rhyme with Yogi Bear). I still love and collect stuffed animals, and enjoy giving them as gifts as well.

    One of my best friends just had her first child, so I gifted her a stuffed elephant, which is a symbol of good luck in South & Southeast Asian cultures.

    Thank you for this, and my condolences.

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    1. Mia, that is great to know! Thank you! Hogi is so cute... and it's adorable that you thought of that. Who in the above comments called the polar bear Poley? That is so hilarious!

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    2. That was me, Hank. My grandson Zak! His first bear was "Beary", and he had a stuffed turtle... well, use your imagination.

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    3. Mia, does the trunk of the elephant curl up? I'd heard that elephants are only good luck if the truck curls up. Is that true? (As in, is that a true depiction of the legend/belief about the elephants. We can devote another whole day to whether "good luck" is a true thing!) :-)

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  27. My reticent Butch self does not allow tears very often. Today eyes were swimming, first from the tale of the bears, second from Hank's comment "our darling Coralee...".
    I have been called many names over the years.. darling Coralee is new and and and aw shuckin's...

    Our childhood bears were exotic.. my sister had a koala made from real koala fur --this was 65 years ago. When she unfortunately threw up on it, my mom the nurse, burned the bear. She told my sis that the bear had gone up the chimney to live with Santa. My bear --Tiny Tim Bear Battin -- I was wordy even at 4 years.. was carefully hidden when I was ill. He survives today both in memory and in storage.

    I usually give books to babes in hopes that there will still be readers in all formats in the years to come. Audrey at 11 mos. is about to own The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I on the other hand, am about to meet Maggie MacDonald. Thanks for dropping by Mary. Glad you could 'bear' with us.

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    1. Ha, Coralee! (
      (and I am at the train station right now, waiting for my train to New York… And I am not kidding, someone just walked by me, in conversation with someone else, and said " and believe me, living with a bear is not helping her. "
      What do you suppose that meant? Maybe I should have corrected him.
      And, darling Coralee, :-) going up the chimney to live with Santa is the best parental explanation I have ever heard!

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    2. Thanks so much for introducing yourself to Maggie, Coralee. You ARE a darling! My favorite book to give babies is Time for Bed by Mem Fox. That and Goodnight Moon were read so often in our house that we needed to get a new copy for Baby #2. Oh, and Is your Mama a Llama? (My husband also spent some time in Peru, so the correct pronunciation of "Yama" was essential.)

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  28. what a lovely lovely post, thank you Mary! We all needed this in the times we live in....

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  29. Oh, Mary, thank you for this wonderful post today. I admit to being a softie for stuffed animals, although I don't collect any for myself. I do think that they can be a real comfort for people, young and old alike. Your story about your father is just so special. He must have been such a caring, loving man. I keep a few stuffed animals around for the grandkids, both the almost eight-year-old and the sixteen-year-old when they come to visit. Oh, I do have an old bear of mine put away that I had as a child. I need to get it out and say hello.

    And, your books, Mary, sound like ones I will have to read. "My mysteries look at what happens when that sense community takes a damaging blow, and what members do to restore the balance between good and evil." Your description of what your mysteries address really appeals to me.

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  30. Mary, that was a lovely post. I really needed to be reminded of the goodness of others right now - so thank you for sharing both the story of your father and how Paddington impacted your life. My sympathies on the passing of your father. My dad passed away last summer, so I could relate to your feeling on so many levels. Your mystery series sounds terrific and I'm looking forward to reading it. I used to work in Phoenix with undocumented teens - so you had me hooked right there.

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    1. Thanks for picking up the book, Jenn! My nephew works with undocumented teens in Reno. You'll have to let me know if you think the details in my book are accurate or if I goofed. I hope not!

      And thanks for your comfort about my Dad!

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  31. I love Mary's stories and have read all 3. Always a good mystery, with a strong female lead in a loving family and with wonderful friends. I still have my childhood Paddington complete with wellies by Dunlop. My boys when little wore them so I have great photo memories of that.

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    1. Thanks so much, Chelty! I'm so glad you like Maggie AND Paddington!

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  32. What a beautiful post, Mary! I have been a sucker for stuffed animals for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I collected Steiffs, saving my allowance to buy a new one when I could, and picking up a couple when I visited Europe. Of course, those aren't really cuddly. With my husband, I collected Boyd's Bears, which we display according to the season. And I've never seen a Gund I didn't absolutely love--super soft and comforting. Right now my favorites are a hot pink hippo I received for Valentine's Day one year and a white bear playing a trumpet, a Mother's Day gift years ago from my younger son, who played the trumpet. Oh, and we do have a Paddington Christmas tree ornament from when our grown-up sons were children. As for babies, we have a 9-month-old grandson, and we are careful that any stuffed animals we give him have sewed eyes so he can't choke on them--it's still possible to find some cute ones such as a dragon.

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    1. Margie, those Steiffs (button in ear) animals are lovely. There is such an art to the creation of these animals.

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    2. HANK HERE: Love the Stieffs! SO perfect... And yes, got to be careful! xoo

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  33. What a beautiful piece, Mary. Thank you for sharing it.

    When my youngest brother was born, my parents brought home a Dalmation stuffed animal to distract me from having to share my world with another sibling. I still have that dog. And love my brother dearly.

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    1. Hank here: SO--that all worked, right? xoxo

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  34. Does the Dalmation have a name, Ellen? We let our son pick out a new stuffed animal for him and for his new little brother!

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  35. What a delightful blog, Mary. Paddington has long been a favorite of mine. I have a boxed set of his books from childhood. I confess though that for wee ones, my gift is a velveteen rabbit. Both the animal and the book. Both are getting a bit harder to find these days.

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    1. Great idea, Kait! xoxo

      (and yesterday's winner of Kathleen Valenti's book PROTOCOL is Karen from Ohio! YAY!)

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  36. Mary, this is beautiful. I had a service dog, Kendall, who loved bears. I didn't know this until we went to the grocery store one day and stopped in front of a display of bears. He stared at it, and was so taken by all the bears, he drew a crowd. Finally I asked him if he wanted a bear. He looked up at me and got all wiggly. I said ok. Go get one. He went straight to the biggest bear in the display and put it in the shopping cart. His little crowd applauded him. He was so happy! Kendall is in Heaven now. His bear is on my bed. I hug him nightly. until last week that is, when I got a new puppy, my little Fitbit. What was the first thing he did when he came to our house? He ran straight to Big Bear and hugged him. Claimed him. Held onto him. Loves him.

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    1. What a wonderful story, Reine! And Fitbit is a PERFECT name for a dog. They become our personal trainers, don't they. Walk them once at 3 am, and they'll wake you up at 3 am for days for another workout! :-)

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    2. Mary, thank you! I love the name Fitbit, and I'm learning that 3am thing! Fitbit keeps on sched. It's already after midnight, and I'm wondering if I should just stay up until 3.

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