The Secret Life of Teddy Bear
Where did Teddy Bears Come From?
"Teddy bears first got started from a cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt refusing to shoot a bear. It appears that this cartoon even inspired Morris and Rose Michtom to make a bear in admiration of the president’s actions. The Michtoms called their bear “Teddy’s Bear” and placed it in the window of their store. It began to make a hit with the American public. By 1906 there were teddy bears everywhere and it was the hot object on the shelf."
Clay, Marianne. “The History of the Teddy Bear.” Madavor Media. 2009. 19th March 2010
Señor MacGyver Finds his Teddy
It all started when Alice's old blanket became unusable, after years of holding and clutching it like Linus in Peanuts. It had only a few threads left and beginning to vanish before her eyes. It ceased to be the blanket that she used to find comfort in times of stress.
"Dad, I want a teddy bear. A nice chubby one like me," Alice said.
Dad was the MacGyver of dads. He was the James Bond of fathers. When he was given a mission, any kind of assignment, he did not hesitate or give excuses.
He made things happen. He could solve any mystery, build any building, figure out any puzzle.
In fact, he could work in the secret service. He could handle top secret missions; missions that no one in their right mind would handle.
So dad, in his cool, understated Mexican way said, "No problem, Al. I'll get right on it."
And so for Christmas, Dad and Mom came through. As they always do. They found the nicest, cutest, most acrylic, foam-rubber-stuffed, brown and plastic-eyed teddy bear in the state of Kentucky. More specifically--Louisville, Kentucky.
"Jarvis (Dad) got the bear in Kentucky for Alice when she was in the 6th grade for Christmas. He had a plumped belly and her sisters wanted him. They ended up getting teddy bears of their own."
Irene, Alice's mother.
His Name is Tony
Almost instantaneously, Alice fell in love with her teddy bear. She was only 11 at the time, a full-figured girl heading toward puberty and she wanted a stuffed animal that was as chubby and cute as she was.
She found all of that and more in her teddy bear.
But she had to name the stuffed animal. She thought for awhile, as she put her forefinger into her dimpled cheek.
She asked her two sisters who came up with names like Ganzollo, Benjamin, and Wilbur--none of which meant anything to her. She had to come up with a name that symbolized the essence of the teddy bear.
At the time, one of her favorite TV shows was Taxi. She liked most of the characters, but the cutest one was the taxi driver, Tony Banta, played by Tony Danza. Latka was too weird and Danny was too short. But Tony was just right--and he was lovable. "Tony it is," Alice announced to her entire family.
And almost immediately her family welcomed Tony, the potbellied teddy bear, into their home and into their world. They even set a place for him at the table, a toothbrush for him in the bathroom, and on Christmas day they had a stocking for him hanging above the mantle-piece. Tony had become part of the family.
Alice was often seen rubbing Tony's belly, squeezing the warm, cuddly acrylic fur and feeling the girth of the bear's body next to her. She chuckled, and if you listened closely, Tony was chuckling along with her.
Tony's an Excellent Listener
What Would Tony Do?
There are many reasons why Alice became so attached to Tony, and Tony to Alice.
Teddy bears are a symbol of protection and so Alice felt safe with Tony and Tony felt that he was protecting a little girl.
Teddy bears are a symbol of comfort. Alice loved to hug Tony and Tony loved to be hugged, within limits.
Teddy bears are known to be smart, loyal and they will never abandon you.
Alice loved Tony with all her heart. And when she came home after a difficult day at school, perhaps being teased because she was chubby or Mexican or had a dark complexion--Tony would be there waiting for her on her bed, with open arms and eyes wide and glistening.
Tony was Alice's friend and her confidant. He was the one she could go to in times of stress. He never judged her.
She took Tony everywhere--on family vacations, on overnight visits to her girlfriend, doctor's appointments and out for dinner with her family.
And Alice could talk to Tony and Tony would respond to her with wisdom and sound advice. Sometimes Tony recommended that she ignore the teasers; other times he would suggest that she fight back when she was bullied.
And fight back she did. On at least one occasion, she punched the lights out of a schoolboy teaser and the bully felt the wrath of Alice.
She couldn't wait to come home and tell her family and, especially, Tony that she stood up for herself.
And Tony would quietly say, "I knew you could do it."
Tony's Extensive Back Surgery
Tony Came Back from the Dead
No one is saying that Tony's life was all fun and games and all hugging and cuddling. A teddy bear's life could have its trials and tribulations. Especially when his partner was a touchy-feely girl like Alice.
On many occasions, Alice would squeeze Tony too hard, not realizing her own strength. As a result, Tony suffered some injuries, some minor and some more serious.
Lucky for Alice (and Tony), she had a chief teddy bear surgeon in her house with the name of Irene, Alice's mother. Irene did not have a veterinarian degree, but she knew about sewing and mending stuffed animals, as a result of raising three young children.
Irene was very handy and resourceful, much like her husband. She was schooled in the fine art of sewing and knitting by her mother. Irene worked with various materials over her lifetime and mending a bear was just another challenge.
On one scary occasion, Tony's head started to separate from its upper body and Irene took emergency action. With Alice by her side, Tony was comforted during the two hour long surgery and Alice watched in awe as her mother very delicately sewed Tony's head back to the rest of his body. When Tony came out of anesthesia, he was as good as new, albeit a bit groggy and sore.
Indeed, Tony had survived and Alice shouted for joy and gave her close friend and confidant a supreme bear hug, although much more gentle than usual.
"I would go to her apartment in Long Beach. I walked in and the first thing I saw was “Tony” the potbelly bear sitting on chair in her bedroom. I know I must have squealed out, “Tony baloney bear!” as that was the nickname I had for him."
Theresa (Alice's sister)
Tony has Become a Party Stuffed Animal
Tony Grows and Matures as a Stuffed Animal Person
Tony was with Alice through college and beyond. And he was there when she got her first apartment and her first well-paying job.
Tony found a home on Alice's green-blue floral chair in her bedroom.
It's the perfect spot for Tony. Tony sleeps with things that belong to Alice like her socks or slips or freshly washed clothing.
The chair is a place where Tony entertains friends as well. Tony, who is the strong, silent type can also be very social with other stuffed animals. Over the years, Tony has met many friends and he often can be seen entertaining them or engage them in deep, heady conversation.
There's Peas in the Pod, Wheezy, the Snowman, Mickey Mouse, the Pillsbury Doughboy and many others that originally came from the Disney store or gifts from friends.
Tony also has learned the fine art of fencing, can play a mean bongo, does restorative yoga, and has his own personal landline phone that he will use when he gets lonely or wants to know what time Alice will be home.
Over the years, Tony has grown into a seasoned adult teddy bear. Along with Alice, they have grown together and been through many life events. Although Alice doesn't pay as much attention to Tony as she once did, especially since she has a boyfriend who lives with her, she knows that he's still there.
She knows that whenever she feels the need to cuddle with Tony, he will always be there for her. Even after 40 years.