I maybe alone on this, even though I am praying I am not, but for some reason or another I wanted a Care Bear when I was a little kid. In the early/mid eighties these stuffed bears were quite the fad and girls as well as boys of my age had to have one. I think the same held true for Pound Puppies, Teddy Ruxpin and My Buddy, because I remember at least putting a few of these things on my Christmas wish list. Maybe there was a gender identity crisis among kids my age because a Pound Puppy and Battle Damage He-Man were neck and neck for best gift. Regardless, I wanted a Care Bear and I had no shame in asking for one. I take that back, begging for one.
Now I wasn’t a fruity kid or anything. I played in the mud, was the king of four square, liked bugs and sharks, was pretty sure I was Luke Skywalker for a while and had every GI Joe figure known to man but I also followed the fads. When Jam shorts were in style I wore them. When Yo-Yo’s emerged from the shadows of the fifties in the fifth grade I learned how to “walk the dog”. When Rebok Pumps were a must, my poor Dad shelled out $100 so I could inflate my sneaker tongue. And when a cartoon about Bears shooting care symbols off their stomachs meant every kid, no matter what gender, had to have a stuffed bear I was no exception.
I don’t believe I really wanted a Care Bear. I think it was more the idea of blending in. I worked pretty hard at being another face in the crowd and the last thing I wanted was unneeded attention. Not having a brother or a sister telling me I was an idiot all the time left me very sensitive to the ridicule of my peers. If there was ever name calling I usually left feeling confused saying, “I don’t understand how they can’t see that I am fucking awesome. My mom and dad always say that.” But I digress, if having a dippy bear would assimilate me than so be it. I added it to the ’85 Christmas wish list.
So Christmas finally came. Just like any other kid of my age it was a day that capped the year. If the two super powers of the Cold War decided to nuke each other it damn well better be in January because Christmas was not to messed with. That year I felt I was owed a few things. It was great to have a 7 year old sense of entitlement. But that year also came with a curve ball. The much anticipated 5am walk to the den to see the presents under the tree was quickly defused . Yes, the presents were there, the tree was still plugged in and the smell of scotch tape still hung in the air but there was a peculiar being sitting in front of the tree. I stared at it and with more time passing it became apparent that this was what it was. I got a homemade Care Bear.
It just so happened that the year Care bears made their debut to the toy market my aunt took up stitching for a hobby. I am positive that when the wish list was shared she took full advantage of the opportunity and volunteered to make it. For some reason my mom’s side of the family really like to make their own things. Now making your own chair, dress, desk, or canoe is cool but you can not get away with making the most popular toy in America from scratch. I know I sound caddy but let me describe it for you. Keep in mind I was a little dick of a kid. I’m better now that I’m 30.
Fist of all, he (it was a boy) was stuffed with styrofoam balls much like a bean bag chair. When hugged it made a noise that let you know your bear is surely dead. It was also clear that my aunt did very little research on the Care Bears because on the chest of my bear was not a heart or a four leaf clover or a cloud or even a rainbow. It was a truck. My bear had the “Care Bear Stare” of a truck. I don’t know what that would do in a care bear emergency. Maybe tow the cloud car? My God, I think I remember too much about these gay things….
I believe the best/worst feature on my Amish Care Bear was the proportioned head to body ratio. He had a head four times the size of his torso. Looking back on it I guess he would be a hydrocephalic bear but even then, it was a hard pill to swallow just knowing that if any one of my friends saw this my quest to be invisible would be over. Instead of being the nameless face in the crowd I would be an outcast. Just me and big-head truck bear. Oh the woes of an eight year old primadana.
The whole morning I was constantly distracted by my hydrocephalic homemade bear. The joys of new stuff was great but my eye was always drawn back to him. Later that night I retired to my bedroom without the protection of a Care Bear truck stare. Now that I am telling this story, I do feel like I was a little dick of a kid.
A week or so later I was back at school sharing stories of my new loot with my school chums. It seemed that everyone did pretty well but i had to tip the scale and proudly exclaim that not only did I get He-Man, GI Joe, an Ewok Village but I also got a Care Bear. Of course I got the unwanted attention of being the lucky kid with the most crap. It’s what mattered back then. So I wore that crown for a while. A while meaning until Friday. The teacher told us to bring in one thing for show and tell on Friday that we got for Christmas. I think you know where this is going.
I contemplated which toy I should bring in so I could still keep my meaningless position as the shittiest kid in school. I was stuck between the He Man on Battle Cat or my G.I. Joe tank with the bridge crossing thing on top. But I was oblivious to the fact that my Mom caught wind of Fridays events. As an active parent in my school she was what you called a “homeroom mom” and she had other plans for what I was going to show and tell about. When she asked me to show off my aunt’s impressionistic creation of a modern day Care Bear I quickly objected. This resulted in an order to take Truck Bear to school and that was final.
The morning of Friday I shuffled off to the school bus with book bag on back and retard bear in arm but before I got there I made the switch. I took out the books and paper bag lunch and tried to stuff the bear in the bag. No shit, the head was too big. After some frustrating stuffs I got him in and off I went. No one would be the wiser and I had a trusty Go-Bot in my pocket to show. It’s good to be humble when everyone already knows you’re the shit.
I wish I could remember how the rest of the day went but all I really remember was the show and tell event. If I had something extravagant to show off I would have been excited but I figured just a Go-Bot was nothing to raise your arm up so high that you would need to support it by your other arm behind the head. You know what I’m talking about. I sat through fifteen Care Bears, a few G.I. Joe’s and some Cabbage Patch dolls. So soon enough I went up to give a brief description of my robo-motorcycle but there was a look of confusion on my teachers face. I knew there was a problem about the time I got to “what I got for Christmas was…”. My Mom had informed the teacher ahead of time that I had a homemade bear that I was supposed to show the class. Ms. Simms (the teacher) asked, “Where’s your Care Bear, Billy?”. Sold out by the woman who gave me life.
I have had many embarrassing events in my life. When I was 16 I picked up my homecoming date and stepped in dog poop, only to track it into her parents house. I was running to class in college and tripped with my hands tucked in my book bag straps. My God, I spent an entire day mistaken for a retarded person at the Special Olympics. But that show and tell was my earliest memory of embarrassment. The long walk from the front of the classroom to my book bag is still as clear as yesterday. When I pried that huge head from my bag there was a gasp in the room and my efforts to be out of the lime light was ruined. Had I been quicker on my feet back then I would have told the class he was in fact a real Care bear. His name was Truck-Dar and was the evil sibling that didn’t live in the clouds with the rest of the bears but down in the fog….where he ate the bears that accidentally fell….. and he was a mechanic which explains his truck on his stomach….. and he was very smart….because his head is so big.
Well, I guess that would have made it worse. No, I stood up at the front of the class while Ms. Simms gave my monologue about how my aunt made this with her own hands. I looked around the class while the guys in the back held their heads down laughing and the girls curled there lips in disgust. And that’s when I began to feel bad for my Hydrocephalic Care Bear. Even at my weakest moment I thought, this was made for me. I began to drift from the fact I could be labeled as the kid with the freak bear and started taking pride in the fact that this was for me and me alone. I think that is pretty remarkable for an 8 year old only child.
I sat down at my desk and kept the bear with me the whole day. I no longer felt ashamed and found myself defending it to any snickers or jokes. That night the bear took guard on my bead to ward off any night terrors. He may be a deformed Care Bear but damn it, he was my deformed Care Bear.
Thanks Aunt Eileen. He was the best bear a guy could have. And he didn’t let the thing in my closet get me either.