|Mary Bambi and Mary Margaret|
When I was wee, there was no television! Can you imagine? I always enjoy those photos of the happy family gathered round the radio, (no doubt advertisements for the latest Philco,) but this never happened at my house. I don’t recall my parents ever listening to the radio, but I do remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap sometimes when he listened to the news. Occasionally, I secretly listened under the covers after I was supposed to be asleep. My favorites were Ozzie and Harriet, and The Lone Ranger. Earlier, when I was younger, my mother turned on Big John and Sparkie for me every Saturday morning. This show, which I adored, had a lasting impact on me in several ways. The theme song was The Teddy Bears Picnic. I loved it, and sang all the time. I was an only child, and my teddy bears were my special friends. Especially one named, not too imaginatively, Teddy.
By the time I was six, Teddy had very little of his original self left. As you can see in the photo, the eyes were the first to go. My grandmother was the surgeon, replacing bits of him as they wore out. My second favorite bear was Mary Bambi. (Don’t let her know she was not my first ursine love.) She was a gift from my grandmother, and this photo, taken on my grandmother’s porch, may have been snapped the very day I got her. In the top picture, you can see a bald spot on her ear. This is where I gently nuzzled her with my nose. This nuzzling was always a great comfort in times of stress.
That is probably Teddy lying on the step behind me. One day, my mother gave me a record of Teddy Bear’s Picnic. I listened to it all afternoon. (See if you can listen to it without smiling!) When I went to find my bears, quelle horreur! They were gone. “They’re at the picnic,” my mother told me. Later, in the evening, they came back – all but one. Poor Teddy had stayed at the picnic. This was over half a century ago, and I have to say that I still harbor some bitterness about it – my first real emotional trauma.
Big John frequently read stories to us, and one of them affected and disturbed me deeply. I brooded about it for a long while afterwards. Although for years I thought about it and the intense impression it made on me, I didn't know what it was. One evening, at least two decades later, when I was in graduate school, I took a break from studying to make myself a piece of toast. I grabbed one of Rebecca’s story books and opened it up at random to read while the bread was in the oven. I read one sentence, and was stunned. I instantly knew it was the story I had heard so many years before - The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde. It still makes me teary. You can read it here.
One morning as my then husband was leaving for school, he asked me to give him a short story to read to his class. “Read The Happy Prince,” I unthinkingly said. When he got home that afternoon, he was a little cranky. “You did that on purpose!’ he growled. “What?” I wanted to know. “You gave me that story to embarrass me. I read it to the class, and started crying.” That would be embarrassing. I assure you, I didn’t do it on purpose. I just thought it was such a nice story.