I have just finished making our son’s bed and finished it off with the obligatory act of tucking his teddy bear into bed. James’ bear is aptly known as ‘Bear Bear’ who was given to him by a friend of ours when James was born. We can already see at the grand age of 2 years old, Bear Bear already plays an important role in James’ life; being a comfort is Bear Bear’s primary role and when James is upset, he cuddles his bear like any other child would. Bear Bear naturally has his own personality and I feel it is a mischievous one. James channels a little personality from within himself, down his arm and into Bear Bear- giving the teddy a voice, thoughts and actions- mostly which are being thrown up into the air and landing face down (I’m still referring to the bear here!). Our teddy bears are so personal to us. When looking into their little bear’s button, glass or embroidered eyes, through a child’s own eyes, they see unconditional love and forever friendship. My mum still has her gorgeous bear which is so thread bare, it lives in a silk bag but those eyes still look out brightly, friendly and forever young.
Naturally with having 200 children boarding, we are surrounded by bears, each with their own little personality. These many teddy bears have been thoughtfully placed into their own cosy little area somewhere on the bed. Some are tucked up, some live under the duvet (the boys’ bears mostly), but most sit next to or on the pillow. Nevertheless, they all wait for their human to return, to listen to their day and to continue sharing an eternal and unspoken love. Anyone reading this will think of their own bear and most probably will be able to recall child hood imaginaries of their own toys being enchanted and coming to life once we left the room. The charm and enthralling life of a toy without a human around has been brought to life thanks to Jims Henson’s ‘The Secret Life of Toys’ of the 90s or the very current Toy Story 3 (2010) and The Lego®Movie (2014). These creations keep the child within us believe that even as adults, our toys really do come to life once we have left the room!
So this leads me to share with you a very sweet story that epitomises the magic that boarding can captivate. Cece Worsley who is in the Fours has a beautiful bear called Roly. He is officially 55 years old and every morning he rests his weary fluffy self on Cece’s bed. This old yet young at heart bear has no ordinary life and certainly won’t be found under the duvet or staring up at the ceiling! Roly first belonged to Cece’s dad’s cousin, James, who decided he was too old for bears, and so left him at their granny’s house and where Cece’s dad (Charles) took him on as a lifelong friend, (Roly still has a very faded name tag saying ‘Charles Worsley’). Roly then went to Cottesmore school with Charles (Cece’s daddy), and then lived on his old bed at Cece’s grandparent’s house. It was then when Cece, aged three, lost her special rabbit that Charles gave her Roly to cheer her up. I must say Roly looks like an educated bear and one that needs the old ‘fluff’ matter going. So that must be why every morning Cece puts a book out in front of him to read and there he will stay, sitting up and ‘reading’ his favourite fairy tales until the end of the day.
Roly sitting on Cece’s bed in Orange Dorm (Girls Boarding House)
Roly must have a lot of memories to fluff over and because he is an experienced boarder, life as a boarding bear naturally comes easy to him. So that must be why he is ‘head bear’ of the orange dorm and keeps an eye on all the other young bears while the girls are out for the day. That is how Roly Bear has found his way, aged 55, sitting on Cece’s bed, reading about heroes’ and heroines’ adventures. Today you’ll find him wearing a rather fetching white dressing gown with pink pyjama bottoms and sleeping next to a picture of himself in a tux! If he or any of the other bears could talk, I wonder what they will say and what happens during the day for them? We will never know but I know a little girl who could write up an adventure or two about ‘The Secret Life of the Boarding Bears’.
But in the meantime, this poem says it all-
My Teddy Bear
He sits upon his pillowed throne
A joyous smile upon his face.
And though his ears may seem outgrown
He carries them with pride and grace.
He’s never cross or quick to carp
A friend in need is he to me.
When human tongues are mean and sharp
My teddy gives me sympathy.
To him I always bare my soul
He lifts me when I’m feeling low.
And when I brag and miss my goal
He never says, ‘I told you so.’
My friends may titter gleefully
And some may tease, but I don’t care.
I hope that I will never be
Too old to love my Teddy Bear.
Jeffrey S Foreman
The New York Times