Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Much Loved" Old Teddy Bears Offer Poignant Photography, Comfortable Memories

Admit it.
Me, relaxing with my childhood teddy bear and
my favorite childrens'  book.  

You're probably an adult, and have been one for a long time.

But chances are, you still have the old teddy bear or other stuffed toy that, when you were little, could not be separated from, EVER.

And I bet you still would never part ways with Teddy. He's in your house somewhere, watching over you, protecting you, making you feel safe just like he did when you were three years old.

Along those lines, a photographer named Mark Nixon put together a book called "Much Loved" a collection of images showing very, very battered teddy bears and similar toys that had been hugged and hugged and hugged in times of childhood stress.

Their owners could never let go of these toys, even well into adulthood, and it's understandable why.

Here's what Nixon had to say about the project on the website BoingBoing:

"......I put the call out for people to bring in their much-loved teddies--the more loved, unwashed, and falling apart the better--to be photographed. I expeted it to be mostly children, but it soon became apparent that the idea appealed very much to adults, and that many of them were still very attached t their teddies. It was as though they had been keeping a long-held secret and could finally tell someone what their teddies really meant to them.

Their strength of feeling took me by surprise. While waiting they would tell some usually funny story about their teddy (How they had nearly lost it at some stage was a common theme) or would speak emotionally about what it meant to them. So the stories and memories became integral to the photographs, adding significance to them and bringing them to life."
Someone's childhood teddy bear
from the photography book "Much Loved"
 by Mark Nixon  

I can so relate to the people who had their teddy bears photographed by Nixon. I still have my childhood teddy bear, and I'm 51 years old.

Compared to the teddies in Nixon's photographs, mine's in pretty good shape. He still has his two golden eyes, and a brown button nose. His fur is matted with age, the bottoms of his white feet are dirty and his mouth is misshapen.

When I first had him, you could squeeze him and he'd say things like "I love you" but that feature broke a long, long time ago.

My teddy sits on a dresser drawer in the bedroom. He's joined by other child-like toys an items I collected as an adult. There's a stuffed Tasmanian devil, from Looney Tunes, that I bought more than two decades ago.

About four years ago, when I had to go into a surgery, my best friend Denis gave me a children's book called "The Gift Of Nothing" by Patrick McDonnell, which charmingly tells us the best thing we can give to our loved ones is time and friendship.

The book is most assuredly in that place of honor in my bedroom.  When I need a little encouragement after a setback that looms large but is really unimportant,  I read "The Gift of Nothing." It always helps immensely.

Lately, I've been obsessed with Minions from "Despicable Me," those cheerful, yellow pill shaped characters who happily soldier on despite all kinds of outlandish and humiliating mishaps

I'm not the least bit ashamed of having these childhood, or childlike items as important touchstones of my life.

We all have bad moments. We all have stress.  We keep our childhood teddy bears and add to our collection because we remember how we felt when Mom yelled at us, or classmate Susie said we were stinky, or we couldn't get the toy we wanted.
The toy panda bear photographer
Mark Nixon had when he was a kid.
He included it in his book "Much Loved"
which shows poignant images
of peoples' childhood teddy bears  

Teddy always made us feel better. We can hug something warm and fuzzy and everything was OK.

That's why a lot of us, as adults, have dogs, isn't it?  If I've had a busy, stressful day, I'll collapse onto the couch. Jackson the Cocker Spaniel will run up, leap up onto my lap and tell me to start giving him a back rub.

Yeah, it feels good to him, but it feels good to me, too. The backrub I give Jackson soothes me more than it soothes him.

It makes me feel like I did when I hugged my teddy bear as a toddler. I bet the you go through the same thing with your dog or cat, if you're lucky enough to have them in your house.

After a few minutes of back rubbing, Jackson leaps off my lap, deposits himself on the floor next to his favorite toy, looks at me, bright eyed and tail wagging and says "Woof!"

That means it's time to play, and chasing Jackson around the house with his toy buffalo or toy cow makes both of us feel great and erases any last vestiges of stress.

Just like when I was a three year old, and Teddy and I, climbing a small hill outside,  pretended we were conquering Everest.

So yes, all adults should have comforting playmates. They could be intelligent beings, like my dog Jackson, or an old teddy bear, or a children's book.

Some people might say clinging to such things is insane.

I say it's the most sane thing any adult could do.

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