She grew up good,
she grew up slow,
like american honey.
Steady as a preacher,
free as a weed.
Couldn’t wait to get goin’
but wasn’t quite ready to leave.
— Lady Antebellum
From an early age I became attached to things. I know, big surprise, a toddler attached to something. The difference between me as a child and most other children is I was attached to things not just a “something”. Let’s get real here, I could have easily starred in a mini version of “Hoarders: Buried Alive,” if it had been around back in the late ‘80s. I grew attached to books, stuffed animals, pillows, linens and I even hoarded my own body parts – my thumb.
Eventually, I was able to make it to the second grade without my pillow (and “special pillowcase”), weaned myself (and Momma) off of the same ol’ bedtime readings, and I even managed to break the thumb-sucking habit. The only attachment I could not seem to kick was the stuffed animal part.
The story goes: I was barely two years old. Momma and Nana toted me around like a baby doll. We had a weekend routine of yard sales, Walmart trips, and mall shopping sprees. During one particular outing, I snatched up a Winnie the Pooh bear while strolling through Sears. Neither one of them can quite remember whom I hustled into purchasing it, but none-the-less; this girl left with a brand new bear.
Over time, my co-dependency on Pooh grew. We spent summers in Charleston, vacations at the beach, school nights tucked-in between my other “friends” and my baby Bubba, and as I grew, he grew with me. I was the only 14-year-old at slumber parties pulling a Pooh bear out of my pillow (yeah, who was I kidding, never really got rid of the pillow either) when it came time for bed. I got my license, graduated high school, and that bear was the first thing packed as I moved off to college. My dad picked at me, Bubba would hide it from me, and each friend that came and went gave me a hard time about it… but none of them could get me to shelf him.
Fast-forward 18 years: Mr. Big and I had planned a Fall Break trip to Miami to watch his coveted Dolphins play the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, I was not looking forward to the game as much as I was the new-city shopping, but regardless, I was excited. We drove down just for the night. Mr. Big held up his end of the bargain; he took me shopping and to a very nice dinner. The following morning we rose, put on our best orange and teal get-up, and headed out to the game.
I do not know if anyone followed the Miami Dolphins in 2008, but their record ended up being pretty decent: 11-5. However, it just so happened the one game we traveled 780 miles to watch (from the visitor side no less) ended up being one of their five losses. The final score: 27-13, Baltimore.
It had been a long day. We had swung by Burger King for the legendary dollar Whoppers (that were no longer a dollar), gotten to the stadium early enough to scalp tickets (you remember, the ones that ended up being on the WRONG side of the field) from a beady-eye gentleman who called himself “Shorty,” and Miami could not manage to get it together. This made for a fabulous ride home… an irritable Dolph-fan. Anyhow, I know when to bow out and let Mr. Big have his space, so I asked if he could stop over on the side of I-4 and get my pillow out of the trunk.
As we started to catch up to speed, I felt my heart start to race with the RPMs. Something did not feel right. No, literally, something did not feel right. My pillow was lacking the right amount of lumpiness. I practically stuck my head inside the pillowcase looking for Pooh bear, all to no avail. Mr. Big stopped off on the side of the interstate once more. We searched that car inside out. I was sick. No Pooh.
Rewind eight hours: That morning, in a rush of excitement, Mr. Big was practically pushing me out of the hotel room. He asked me if he could carry anything down to the car for me and I dismissively responded that my pillow was the only thing ready.
The hotel! If the bear was not in my pillow (where he should have been) he had to be at the hotel!
Mr. Big called three times over the next 18 hours. I was devastated. No Pooh.
I know what it must seem like. At the time I was a 20-year-old college junior, what was I doing traveling with my boyfriend and a bear? But I was heart-broken. I had spent 18 years of my life with this bear. For 18 years I spent every night with this stuffed animal. He propped my head up as I watched television, caught almost every one of my tears, went with me out of state, out of country and was with me when I thought I was out of my mind. I cried. I cried like a baby… like a 2-year-old.
A couple of weeks ago: I was lying in bed and for whatever reason Pooh ran through my mind. Even three and a half years later, I could still remember each and every stitch of him. I did not sleep well that night and woke up the next morning with the same lump in my throat I first had that Sunday in Miami. I went through my morning routine and headed off to work, just another day. When I got to the office I had one of Oprah’s “Ahh-ha” moments – eBay (…duh). My gosh, it was the 21 century and here I was acting like a shopping amateur. I had all the information I needed: Pooh, late 80’s/early 90’s, and Sears. We were in business.
It probably took me 10 minutes to find him. He looked exactly like my Pooh but just to be sure I sent the seller a message:
Hi there –
I know this sounds silly but I had a bear very similar to this one when I was younger. I recently misplaced the bear and wanted to ask you a couple of questions.
1. The shirt, is it a ribbed, removable shirt?
2. Are his eyes made out of dark brown beads?
My phone was attached to my hand for the rest of the day. This guy HAD to be an immediate relative of my Pooh. I barely gave it 48 hours before getting fed up with this seller lady; I bit the bullet and clicked “Buy Now!”
Exactly a week later I received a package. It was him. I cut the bag open and found my Pooh… but he was a mini. Wahh wah. I am here to be honest, so honestly, I cried. Again, I found myself crying over a Winnie the Pooh bear… like a 2-year-old.
So, what is one to do in this situation? Naturally, I got back on the horse (well, the internet rather) and continued my hunt for OP (Original Pooh). This time, I was not going to be out smarted. This time in my search bar I was sure to specify the height of my desired animal. Again, it was only a matter of minutes before I had found ANOTHER bear. My only hesitation this time was the authenticity of this Pooh (in comparison to OP). His tush-tag was completely wrong, his shirt was not the right proportion, and this fellow was from China (where OP was Korean). Ugh, what to do, what. to. do.
I sat at Momma’s kitchen table and stared at this bear for nearly an hour… before I clicked “Buy Now!”
All right, so I had $50.00 in this quest to find my childhood/early-adulthood BFF. The madness had to end. This bear would get to my house and would either be an OP replica or would just be another Impostor Pooh to add to the stack. Regardless, I could not keep hoarding up rando bears like this.
Two weeks later, a box came.
This time I did not think before I ripped into the box. There was no silent prayer to baby Jesus making promises of a better attitude, no finger crossing, and no count down. I barely had both sides opened before I shouted, “He’s too BIG! (Insert a slew of not-very-baby-Jesus-friendly obscenities here).”
Defeated once again, I sat on the couch as Momma and Dad tried to convince me (their 23-year-old daughter) that this Pooh was a very nice Pooh bear. “He really is a very pretty bear. He may even be prettier than your Pooh,” Momma said. I was decades from being a toddler and here my parents were trying to talk me off a ledge over a stuffed animal. They had a point though; he was a gorgeous bear… despite being a few inches too big and of Chinese descent.
Aside from ending up with 43 Impostor Poohs to pass along to my children (…and their children…and their children), I gained something from this experience. It became very apparent to me that we never really grow up… by choice. We learn to drive, get degrees, land a job and pay bills but we never forget our smaller selves. From time to time we panic. We think life is passing us by so quickly we will forget who we are… who we were. We cling to mementos of the past as a bridge to our future. Sometimes, we will go to the ends of the Earth just for a taste of our childhood. Whether it is to remind ourselves of where we came from or how far we have gone, we all do it.
When I started this journey I was afraid I would find a bear exactly like my Pooh. And if I had found my Pooh’s identical twin, I was frightened I would subsequently love the new Pooh more than the old one (you know, over compensation due to the guilt I harbored over losing OP to begin with). Although my adventure did not end the way I thought I had wanted it to, I am glad I ended up here. After it was all said and done, and despite how silly this story may have sounded, I am not ashamed of the strides I took to find something I thought would make me happy. I grew from the experience. Once more, I was reminded nothing will ever be what it was. I am glad I am able to leave my past where it needs to be but at some point, for sanity purposes, we all must set out on our own OP scavenger hunt.