Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bear Memories


It was Christmas.
The time of magic.
Wonderment.
And gift-giving.
For a single mom with two little girls, an income sufficient for the necessities and little else, it was a time to get creative.
And Pinterest hadn't been invented yet.
She desperately wanted to give something to the family who cared for her two girls, but what could she afford?
She saw some little clay ornaments in a magazine.
Perfect!
She and her girls would make a set of those.
They spent several evenings mixing.
Rolling.
Assembling.
Baking.
Painting.
And detailing.
Six little Christmas bears emerged.
Perfect and beautiful.
They were wrapped and presented.
And very, very much appreciated.
Move forward a few years . . .
Those same Christmas bears were the Tolley family favourite.
A reminder of the precious years when we welcomed two little girls and their lonely single mother into our family.
They were the first things out of the box when we decorated our Christmas tree.
And always handled with care.
Until that Christmas.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Our family had welcomed in two little special needs foster children.
A brother and sister.
Both had come from . . . difficult circumstances.
Christmas was something that had been observed only from a distance.
They were enthralled with everything.
The gifts.
The lights.
The baking.
The tree.
Especially the tree.
Four-year-old Little Girl spent hours looking at that tree.
And when looking wasn't sufficient, she would pull the decorations off.
Systematically tasting each one.
Most were inedible.
But the little salt-clay Christmas bears, that so closely resembled cookies, could, with just a little effort, be eaten.
She did so.
I caught her at it.
“No! Those aren't for eating!”
I took them away and tried to instruct and advise.
Then moved them up, out of reach.
But when I was downstairs doing laundry, she got into them again.
By climbing the tree.
And knocking it over.
A few minutes later, I sadly rescued what was rescue-able.
It wasn't much.
Only scattered, semi-chewed pieces remained.
One precious bear remained intact enough to still hang on the tree.
It hangs there today.
Still 'bear-ing' the scars of its trauma.
Our little foster daughter has grown and gone.
The single mom, married with two more girls - most themselves married with children of their own.
One, lone bear hangs every year with the other decorations on our tree.
But it isn't just a bear.
It's memories . . .

13 comments:

  1. We decorate our tree with dozens of angel bears (or bear angels?). One goes at the top. It isn't any different from the others except that it is dirty. The reason for that is it once sat on the grave marker of our nephew, taken too soon at age 14. When they redid the marker, Kris accidently dropped it in the mud and thus its dirty state. That's the way it remains although with the passing years it seems to get cleaner. Maybe it's because he has progressed in the afterlife?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, so sweet, George! What a wonderful memory for the top of your tree!

      Delete
  2. Adorable little bear with such a wonderful story attached to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't he cute? Alas, his ears are gone, but that just make him more 'memorable'.

      Delete
  3. Ah yes, I remember those two! And the escapades with the tree... Didn't the tree end up with a permanently bent top after that? I remember we could never get the angel to sit straight after that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Bent-Top-Tree we called it. Sounds like a road somewhere in Virginia.

      Delete
  4. What a beautiful story of one of your ornaments. Thank you so much for sharing! This inspires me to write down the stories behind some of our precious ornaments on our tree.......so many stories.

    Merry Christmas!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, do, Lynn! And then let me read them! Christmas ornament stories are so precious!

      Delete
  5. Awe Diane, I love this story, it's sooo cute. I am happy you were able to salvage one at least :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's missing his ears, but he's mostly there. Kinda like me!!!

      Delete
  6. Diane, it's stories like these that bring warmth and joy to the soul! I love it! I'm so glad you were able to rescue a bear! But more importantly, the true message of your story resides in the importance of memories. Ah, where would we be without our memories? Good or bad, they are part of who we are and who we've been. I still hang my children's hand made decorations on our tree. Some of them (made of paper) are frayed and yellowing, yet hanging them up is like hanging up a good memory--one that makes me smile whenever I look at the tree! Hugs to you from Roxy and me! :)

    ReplyDelete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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