Yarrow House

Big Bear's Heart

When I was three, my uncle gave me a huge, stuffed panda bear, as tall as I was and bigger around. I loved Big Bear. He went with me through the years from the bedroom I shared with my sister in our little house to my own bedroom in the big house our parents built.

By the time I reached high school, he'd grown so tattered and dirty you could hardly tell he was a Panda. My grandmother covered him with a brown corduroy skin, so he was a fresh new bear when he left home with me when I went to college.

Later my son, Ciam, took over Big Bear. Eventually Big Bear lost one eye, and then the other. His corduroy skin didn't look so fresh any more, but the children who played with him didn't care. All they saw was an old friend.

When Ciam got married and moved into his own house, Big Bear went along. One day their cat pissed on Big Bear.

They washed him, but in the rainy, cold Seattle winter, Big Bear just didn't get dry. Instead he started to mildew. Pretty soon he stank so bad they had to put him outside on the porch.

I came by one day and saw him sitting there, propped up in the corner by the door. “What's wrong with Big Bear?” I asked. They said they didn't want to throw him in the garbage, but what else could they do? I said I'd try to get him dry-cleaned. But of course the dry cleaner wouldn't touch him. “He's too thick. He won't get dry,” the dry cleaner told me.

About that time my mother got cancer. I thought she needed something to occupy her mind while she waited for the day of her surgery, so I took Big Bear out to her house and asked if she could make him a new skin.

She called Ciam and asked him if he wanted Big Bear to remain a brown bear or return to being a Panda. Ciam decided it was time for him to become a Panda again.

She took Big Bear completely apart and, using his old skin as a pattern, cut a new skin of black and white plush. After she came home from the hospital, she sewed the skin together. The old stuffing was so matted and smelly, he also needed new stuffing.

It looked like Big Bear was going to turn into an entirely new and different bear. But just before she finished sewing him together, she made a little heart from his original skin. She stuffed it and tucked it down into Big Bear. Now, if you rub very gently on the left side of Big Bear's chest, you can feel a little lump. That's his heart.

One-time reproduction for non-resale purposes permitted with the following credit line: by Judith Yarrow, © 2004