Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A bear hug teddy

One Christmas, when he was very young, my son wanted nothing more than a bear-hug teddy that would hug you right back. This was not something he had seen advertised on television. It came from a book about the Bearenstain Bears Christmas. Given the source, I'm sure the book had a positive message. I don't remember it. Neither did my son -- all he heard was the Christmas list of one of the young bears, which included a bear-hug teddy that will love you right back.

It might as well have been world peace. It simply did not exist in any toy store. (This was before Internet shopping.) The potential for a bear hug teddy that would hug right back was there, as is the potential for world peace, but neither was manifesting.

Of course I bought him the best teddy bear I could find, big and soft with long arms. Of course it did not hug him right back. And of course he was disappointed -- and so was I.

Maybe it gave him (and me) the inevitable life lesson that our desires can't be met exactly in the way we want them, but we can be happy anyway. Maybe it showed him (and me) that we could sit with the pain of disappointment -- in Santa and ourselves -- even amid the general joy of the morning. That the human spirit toggles between happiness and sadness, and both are impermanent.

My memory stops at the cry, "But it doesn't hug me right back!" and that the tears that choked my response. (I'm working on remembering the joy, not just the disappointments.)

I'm sure that I hugged him. He may not have hugged me right back in that moment. He's grown now and has survived greater disappointments. And he's a good hugger, so I guess the lesson that you can only control the hugs you give, not the ones you receive -- which is all the more reason you should give them freely -- stuck with him.

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