Where’s Emily Bear?

Coming home from a long trip, you want to tell stories. There are all the photos you have to share, all the adventures and calamities to recount. I promised you stories from our trip, but for us, there is only one story. It has all the trimmings: damsels in distress, villains half-imagined, and a hero. And it wasn’t clear which role I would get to play.

On the road home, Beangirl lost her teddy bear. Heartbreak. For us parents, as well as for her. Teddies, when they are special teddies, become part of the child you love.  And Emily Bear had been with us a long time. She was a gift at Beangirl’s first Christmas—a beautiful teddy in a flowered dress, with a soft purple cardigan and a classical teddy look on her face. Not smiling, not frowning, but something pensively in between. Emily wasn’t the most important teddy for Beangirl at that stage; she had already bonded with Teddy, her first love. But two years later, Beangirl lost Teddy. Blue was just born and life was confusing and Teddy got left at the bus stop. A pretty rocky start to life as a big sister. Emily Bear, however, was there to step into Teddy’s place.

Over the years, Emily Bear accumulated a pretty diverse wardrobe for a teddy. Usually, she wore a blue knitted dress—one that my mum made for my elder sister when she was only two. A much loved dress for a much loved bear. She was wearing that dress when she went missing.

It happened in Yorkton, Sask. Sunday morning saw us unfortunately in the car. But we did some singing and storytelling and talking to God together on the road. Beangirl drew a picture of things she was thankful for (a tree, a lake with a salmon) and Blue did some impressive scribbles. We felt churched. All that was missing was coffee hour.  And then Timmy’s was right up the road in Yorkton, so everything fit together perfectly.

Beangirl put the ever-present E.B. on the windowsill to watch as we tucked into midmorning nibbles. I thought in that moment that it wasn’t a good place for her to be, but didn’t do anything about it. These moments crop up as parents, and sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t. But when you are tired, you tend not to listen to them. Or perhaps it isn’t a case of not listening to these little premonitions—more of being so tired that you defer the decision a little, procrastinate your way past the moment, and forget about the windowsill altogether. I don’t know, now, if that’s where she was left. It might have been in the bathroom. What I do know is that we climbed back into the overstuffed station wagon and headed east, and it wasn’t until 250 kilometres later, near Minnedosa, Man., when Beangirl thought a nap might be a good idea, and she asked the innocent question “Where’s Emily?”

We searched the car but found nothing. We found the number for the Tim Horton’s, but the man on the phone said that he didn’t see her there. We called again the next morning, hoping she’d turned up somehow during the nightly cleaning, but again we were disappointed. There was only one sad conclusion. Someone had taken Emily Bear.

This hit hard. We’ve had to deal with midnight sobbing, absurd rationalising and general discombobulation. It’s hard to lose your best friend like that. We had another teddy in tow for our travels, and she helped a great deal, but, in the middle of the night, it was Emily Bear who was most needed. Beangirl was certain that E.B. would reappear, and we parents had the saddening task of trying to convince her that it wasn’t likely.

This was so tough. I personally found it almost impossible to believe that someone could see such a well-loved bear and just claim it like that. Finders keepers is a horrible vision for the world. That’s not how I want the world to work. Okay, it was our fault that she’d been left—I should have been more diligent in taking attendance when we got back in the car—but surely, surely, there’s goodness out there, too. This wasn’t supposed to be the way the story ended.

And, sadly, it isn’t even like this loss hasn’t happened before. But when it happened with Teddy, it was in the middle of a big city in the winter. Things get lost in the snow— this is Canada. Things shouldn’t get stolen at the donut shop.

I am not being sentimental about this. Wallace Stevens said that sentiment is failed emotion. This is heartbreak, pure and simple. And, for us parents, a certain loss of faith in humanity, too. It hurts to think so ill of people. It makes the world seem darker.

And then we got to Ottawa. There was a jumble of family waiting for us, and, in the muddle of hellos and hugs, I didn’t notice what Grandpa was up to.  Then there was Beangirl perched on a stool with an envelope in her hands. I couldn’t believe it. Emily Bear beat us to Ottawa in an ExpressPost envelope.

Sarah of the Yorkton, Sask., Tim Horton’s found Emily Bear on the Tuesday. She called the number we’d left and spoke with a surprised and delighted Granny. “She was gently laughing at me, with me,” she said. “She said she would try to leave work early enough to get to the post office that very day.” Thursday morning, hours before we pulled into the grandparental driveway in Ottawa, Emily arrived in the mail.

So, thank you, Sarah of Yorkton. You saw a loved bear lost, and you decided to do something about it. You went out of your way to imagine the difference you could make. Your kindness made our world better. We’re overwhelmed that this story worked out after all. We will be telling this story for years to come. And none of us can stop from grinning about it. Thank you.


About Katie Munnik

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practice of reading lectionary and the practical theology of parenting - from birthday cakes to broken hearts and everything in between. Katie also writes Kaleidoscopically, a monthly column in the print edition of the Presbyterian Record. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table Subscribe to this blog.