Recently I was asked to name my favourite childhood toy, and I really couldn’t come up with one particular toy that I would classify as my all-time favourite. That set me to thinking.
My daughter’s favourite “toy” was a white bear named Honey. It was nineteen hundred and eighty-four. We were still living at Chateau La Fontaine. This was Daisy's first Christmas, and she was exactly seven months “new.” The same age I was my first Christmas.
In my mind's eye, I can still see my husband, Richard, sitting cross-legged on the Oriental rug. He was wearing a bright red cardigan sweater from Berk, that wonderful sweater shop in the Burlington Arcade, a drastic change from his usual drab khaki safari jackets. Daisy had on an adorable pink frock with bluebirds delicately embroidered on the lacy white collar. She was settled cozily on her father’s lap, her arms curled around the red cashmere clad arms that held her. My friend Iris who had attended her birth was also there, as were Iris’s mother Janet, and a handful of family members and close friends. Daisy's godfather Warren had sent a rather large box brilliantly wrapped in Santa Claus paper tied with red and green bows. We saved that mysterious present for last.
When we finally opened the box, there was a black-eyed, fluffy, white bear with a slightly turned up pink nose, resting in an abundance of white tissue paper. Not a polar bear, mind you, just a plain white bear with a pink nose.
From the time they first met, Warren and my husband, had always had a pet name for each other. It was "Honey." Two grown men called each other "Honey". The second that bear was lifted out of the box, I took one look at it and exclaimed, "HONEY!"
Honey has a personality of "its" own. Honey is androgynous. Some days "she" seems to be a little girl bear and other times "he" is a rambunctious little boy bear. Some days she can be found wearing frilly pink tea dresses and other times looking quite nautical in his scaled down blue and white sailor suit and red tie with the perfectly tied square knot.
Honey has traveled the world with us. We figure he was about 7 months old when he came to live with us that last Christmas at La Fontaine. His first trip was to the South of France when he was a year old. S/he spent her days sunning on a beach towel at Miami Plage near the Hotel Negresco and nights snuggled up in Daisy's tender arms in her crib at Le Grande Hotel du Cap. He met Prince on that trip. Prince actually "quacked" at him.
Sometimes he got to have his own seat on the aeroplane, such as the time we went to Belgium to visit Le Baron Jean-Patrick deSelys-Longchamps at Mellery en Brabant. The Stewardesses made a big fuss over him. In a small town near Bruges, he went on a boat ride down the canals, with the baron. His little black eyes reflecting the cobblestone streets and the Carolingian architecture in the quaint little villages as we drifted past.
Honey went to live in Canada when she was 2 1/2, and s/he went to New York and Hawai'i when s/he was 5. Honey had sunglasses and a little yellow bathing suit with green and orange trim. At 6, Honey traveled to England, took tea at the Ritz and met the Queen. She was wearing her frilly pink tea-party dress (Honey, not Her Majesty.) At age 7, Honey went to Vera Cruz, Berlin, Athens and Cairo. She was a very well traveled bear.
In Greece, s/he got a little black Greek hat that was just her size, and in Mexico, a starched white sailor hat with the name of the town written on it in tiny blue cursive letters. Daisy got one too. Honey met Liam Neeson and Andie Mac Dowell while floating down the Nile. You've never heard a more euphonious sound until you have heard Andie Mac Dowell say "honey" in her dulcet southern accent. When s/he was 8, s/he got to go to New York again and ride in Hansom cabs through Central Park, play on the swings near Sheep’s Meadow and go to the Bronx Zoo. She had tea at the famous Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel and Shirley Temple cocktails at the Algonquin, ice cream at Rumplemayer's and trips to FAO "shorts", as Daisy called it. She met Eloise and Al Pacino. She went to Arlington, Washington when she was 9 and spent a summer on the river fly fishing in a float boat and berry picking and picnicking on the shores of the Stillaguamish; the best steelhead river in the world!
Honey especially loved Colonial Williamsburg when s/he was 10. S/he met all the American Girl Dolls. There were summers in Cabo San Lucas and Loretto, the ancient capitol of the Californias, in Baja, Camp at Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and art museums in Chicago, Illinois.
Every Christmas there were gifts under a carefully decorated tree with Honey’s name on them...boxes and packages full of little dresses and nightgowns and new hats. She had an incredible wardrobe for such a little bear.
When Honey went to Washington, DC, s/he somehow, got caught up in the bed-linens, and when Daisy and her classmates turned to come home, Honey was missing. Perhaps one of the girls had hidden her as a mean joke. Daisy was devastated. She had loved that bear all her life and had never left home without her. She even quit Sunday school at the Self-Realization Fellowship, when she was 3, because a horrid woman had locked Honey in the closet and told Daisy she couldn't have the bear back until after the Sunday school class was over.
When the plane landed in Los Angeles from DC without Honey, Daisy was so ill she couldn't deplane by herself. I had to carry her from her seat in the back of the plane all the way to the waiting room. When I asked her where Honey was she burst into tears, “BEAR-NAPPED!”, she sobbed.
As soon as we got home at around midnight, I called the hotel in Washington, DC and told them there was a reward for a small white bear with a patch of fur missing on her left leg, cataracts covering black eyes, a crooked pushed in pink nose, who was last seen wearing a red flannel Lanz nightgown with little brown teddy bears on it. Daisy didn't sleep well at all that night. None of us did. It was as if one of our own children had gone missing.
Two days later, a message was sent up to me in the library at school where I volunteered. "Would Mrs. S..... please come down to the office? " No one likes to be called into the school office, so with butterflies in my tummy, I descended Victorian stairs and presented my dubious self to Rose, the administrator's assistant.
"Oh! There's a package here for you,” she said.
I had been expecting some books from the book faire. I picked up the “rather too light for books” box and returned to the library, a tad disappointed that it was not the books I had ordered. From a moment of disappointment, there are no words to express my happiness and sheer relief when I opened that box and found Honey sleeping quietly on a bed of white tissue paper, in her red and white flannel Lanz nightgown, with the teddy bears on it. And I shall never forget the look of relief and love on my daughter Daisy's face, when a few minutes later, I nonchalantly tiptoed past the open door of her classroom with Honey riding high on my shoulders.
This December, give a child the gift of a teddy bear, a toy they will love, cherish and hold in their memory forever.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Yule, Ramadan, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia or whatever holiday you and your loved ones celebrate at this time of the year.
Honey is now 28 years old, lives in Echo Park, in Southern California, and is in a long term relationship with Daisy's husband's bear whose name is Teddy.