When we were small children my mum always gave us cardboard eggs on Easter Day, which we opened to reveal a present. I’m sure that we must have been given chocolate eggs too but it’s the cardboard ones that have stayed in my memory.
One year she made small bears for my sister and I. They lay curled in the cardboard egg shells. The bears had boot button eyes and were made of brown furry bear material. I was enchanted.
As a special treat we were allowed to take the bears to church with us. I walked with my bear sitting in my pocket with his head looking out so he could see what was going on. For years I thought that my toys were alive and only pretended to be toys when I was around. So, even though they never appeared to respond, I talked and confided in them. Somehow they provided a good sounding board for all my joys and hopes and fears. I trusted them and they were ‘loyal companions’ for many, many years.
The entrance into Great St Mary’s (Cambridge) at Easter was always quite overwhelming. Out of the brightness of the spring morning into the darkened gloom of the church. But the heavy wooden pews meant that we could play with our toys quietly during the service and no one except the vicar in his high pulpit could see.
I remember letting my bear sit beside me and then lifting him down to explore the floor area beside our kneelers. He had long legs, far-apart eyes and small crescent ears for listening. I suspected that he wouldn’t really be interested in the church service and looked forward to walking home in the sunshine and getting to know him.
Finally the service was over and we were outside, going home. Me running ahead in my Easter bonnet, thrilled with the thought of lunch and egg hunts and getting to know my new friend.
But when we got home I discovered that the bear had vanished. How could have I taken it for granted that he’d stay in my pocket? We went back to the church the next day and searched frantically under the pews. A fruitless exercise.
Fifty years later I still think of that lost Easter bear. I knew him for just a few hours and still hope that he found a happy home and was given a really good name.
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