Cheer Bear isn’t the pretty pink she used to be. Her fur is flat and smells of old closets. Her seams are strained, and her stuffing is lumpy. The rainbow embroidered on her tummy is worn after many years’ worth of nights spent hugged to my chest as I told her stories.
She came into my life on my third birthday. It was 1983, and Care Bears had just been introduced. My parents selected soft pink Cheer Bear for me, and my siblings received their own carefully-chosen Care Bears in the next few years. My sister’s Wish Bear was a pale minty green, and he wore a bright shooting star that could be wished on again and again. My brother was the youngest, and so waited the longest for Funshine Bear and the smiling yellow sun on his plush tummy. We eventually got more Care Bears as gifts from family and from Santa Claus, but those were the first three, the ones who spent the nights with us in the small bedroom we all shared before we moved to the big house in Saint-Lambert.
For years, I dragged Cheer Bear with me almost everywhere. She enjoyed Easter ham at Grandmaman’s and giggling sleepovers with my friends. I only ever left her at home when my family went on vacation. My wise decision not to bring her to Niagara Falls spared me much heartache. As it was, I spent half of my trip home moping in the back seat of the minivan, upset that my cruel and unfeeling parents wouldn’t turn around to retrieve Racky Raccoon, whom I’d left under a hotel bed. Had it been Cheer Bear under that bed, I’d have been inconsolable. I missed Racky, of course, but I would have mourned Cheer Bear as only a seven-year-old can.
Over the years, the paint slowly wore off of her bright eyes, burdening her with sad teddy bear cataracts. Her nose faded too, but Mom touched it up with nail polish now and then. Once a bright strawberry pink, the little plastic heart is now glossy with two coats of Revlon’s “Fuchsia Fever”. Her little arms are stubbier than they used to be, because being constantly swung by the arm isn’t healthy for a teddy bear. Both arms needed to be stitched back into place more than once when they dangled from their seams.
As I got older, so did Cheer Bear – she faded, lost her softness. I stopped bringing her to sleepovers, stopped telling her about my day. But she remained in my life. She stayed by my side as my parents divorced and I moved from home to home, apartment to apartment, getting used to new bedrooms and new nighttime noises. She followed me to Maryland, securely packed in a bag of my winter clothes, and found herself carried to bed by her arm and hugged every night as I adjusted to living on my own. She’s in my closet now, nestled on a shelf above my sock bin, where I see her every day. Some nights, when the world scares me and I’m three years old again, I take her down and hug her to my chest, so she can remind me that it’ll be okay.