Our house is slowly filling up with bears. There are bears on my bed. Bears peer down from the tops of bookshelves. Bears are crammed into baskets. They sit on the floor… They are everywhere. All the bears belong to Thomas.
Of course he’s not here to play with them. But they are still his. They represent all the birthdays and Christmases since he was born and died. Almost fourteen years’ worth (plus a few extra). That’s quite a lot of bears.
“We’ll have to start thinking about Thomas’ birthday,” I say to the girls. “We’ll have to find him a new bear.”
A Thomas bear isn’t just any old bear. There has to be something special about it… a quirky expression, funny oversize paws, an extra soft huggable body. I always know when I’ve found the right bear. It practically shouts at me, “Take me! I’m Thomas’ bear!”
Last year I had trouble finding Thomas a Christmas bear. All the bears in our local shops were rather ordinary. They barely glanced at me as I walked by. I spent some time panicking and imagining the unthinkable: a Christmas without a bear. Then I had a new idea. Perhaps I could find the perfect bear online.
I opened my computer and scrolled through pages and pages of bears, until one caught my eye. It was peering at me over his huge fat nose. “That’s the one!” I thought. A few clicks later and the bear was mine, or rather, it was Thomas'. Soon it was flying through the post on its way to join his collection.
Here’s a photo of that bear. We called it Gabriel.
I name all Thomas’ bears after saints. Usually I try to think of ones that have some sort of significance to a particular year. (But it doesn't always work out that way.) The year Felicity became a novice we named his birthday and Christmas bears Felicity and Raphael, her religious name.
When John Henry Cardinal Newman was beatified, I actually bought two bears for Thomas' birthday: The Cardinal and Newman. (There's no rule that says I can only give him one bear!)
Mary Mackillop became part of the family the year Australia received her first saint.
Why did we call this one Gabriel? Actually I can’t remember! In the photo, it's sitting in the middle of Thomas' Christmas memorial. That candle smelt so good, all spicy and woody.
Gabriel is a Gund bear. I rather like Gund bears. Shall I buy another one as Thomas’ birthday gift for this year? What do you think? Here’s a few I like…
This one is Hubble...
Here is Philbin...
Alfie has a rather round tummy...
Goober is even fatter...
I like Gus' hair cut!
How about Schlep?
Slumber looks very round and soft...
So does Wooly!
Of course the bear is going to need a name. He can't keep the one he arrives with. If Thomas hadn’t already got a bear called Francis, that would have been a good choice for this year. He has a Benedict too... I think. Sometimes I get into a muddle. So many bears. I will have to check.
Thomas' birthday is on the 9th November. I have to make some decisions. Which bear do I buy? And what shall I call him?
I've got another bear story somewhere. It's all about how the bear collection started. I didn't consciously decide to buy bears, you know. I didn't even like the first bear he was given. Maybe you'd like to read it? It is called Leo, Augustine and Theo, and it begins in this way...
He arrived in the centre of a funeral wreath and I didn't like him. He was blue and soft and fluffy and any child would have adored him. But my child was dead. He had no need of a bear and so I didn’t want him. We hid him away. And there he remained for a year, forgotten as I grieved for our son.
But before you disappear off to read the rest...
Please help me decide which is the right bear. And if you know a perfect name, I'd love to hear it. It doesn't matter if the name is relevant to 2013 or not!
Does anyone else have a special collection?
PS: I'd have to look at all the bottoms of the bears (that's where I attach a bit of tape with the bear's name) to make a complete list of names we've already used. From memory (and a quick peek at a few bears!) Thomas already has bears called Charles, Aquinas, Edith, Josephine, Theodore, Augustine, Leo, Cyril, Philip, Theo, Elizabeth, Stanislaus, James, Rose, John Paul, Anthony Plunkett (one bear, two saints!), Therese, Edmund, and Vianney, as well as the ones I mentioned in my story.
I bought my last Gund bear from Teddy Bears Direct. I'd better tell you that, as that's where I got these photos of their bears. Good service if you need a bear!