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"My" Teddy Bear This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Many see this piece of chocolatey brown fabric, now dust-covered, as a childhood memory on its shelf, staring down at his memories, but I see this teddy bear as much more. For me, this simple toy represents an elder brother’s eternal love for his sister.

Two years before I entered this world, my brother Jared was born. He was, of course, welcomed with open arms and an array of gifts. One present he received his first Christmas stood out from the rest: a teddy bear. This bear was handmade by Great-Grandpa Lee, a wise man then in his 60s. This bear was splendid, dipped in brown fur and fitted with a baseball uniform complete with bat, cleats and a hat monogrammed with a “J” standing, of course, for Jared. The bear’s eyes were soft and coal-black and his mouth was draped with a gentle smile.

A month later Jared passed away, never getting to know this bear. My mom gave it back to my great-grandpa to re-monogram and send off to another cousin.

Later, I was welcomed into the Lee family, also with many gifts. One was the teddy bear, the one that Jared had gotten two years before. Everything about it was the same, even the “J” on its cap.

One day when I was four I got curious and asked my mom what the “J” meant. She said, “It stands for the bear’s name, Jeri.” I believed her. I took that bear everywhere: to check cows with Dad, to kindergarten, and outside in the summertime, which I later found out was a big no-no!

Not knowing the bear’s history, I took it out in the rain, in mud puddles, through sprinklers, and in the grass, which all brought up some interesting punishments and always seemed to upset my mom. I got in more trouble with that bear.

We went on adventure hunts, and played with my brothers with their trucks. Jeri would sit in the back of the dump trucks while I pushed him until my mom found out.

Then she’d bellow from the steps and I’d tromp madly to her, angry for ruining my play date, handing over Jeri. He was my best friend, solving my problems in kindergarten and chasing all the bad guys away in my dreams.

Then one day in second grade my mom sat me down to explain why I couldn’t take Jeri outside. She told me about Jared and Great-Grandpa Lee. Crushed, I realized that Jeri wasn’t

really mine. With tears in my eyes and my heart in my throat, I gently placed Jeri on my shelf and never played with him again.

Now, I run my hands over his fur faded by age, caressing the well-worn areas lovingly patched amid the frayed seams, feeling his dusty cleats and hat revive once locked-away memories. Sadly Jeri, who never used to see a day of rest, now sits motionless, dust-covered and ... old.

I’m 16 and too old for a bear to tuck in with me at night and fight all my problems, but I think back and wonder if Jared wasn’t there fighting them for me, seeing me through the hard times and good times like an older brother. He never had the chance to see things through his own eyes, but maybe, just maybe, he saw them through Jeri’s.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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