The Christmas Bear

The snow fell softly on the front porch and began to pile up on the windowsill. Each small flake accumulated with the others and a steady December wind blew through the bare tree branches.
Inside, the fire burned heartily in the fireplace and the room smelled of pine and oak. The room was dimly lit and the crackle of the fire was peaceful and relaxing. The smell of fresh brewed coffee drifted from the kitchen and the sound of sleepy footsteps invaded the peaceful moment.
Father stumbled into the living room, stoked the fire, and headed for the kitchen, while Mother gently woke each of the children from their slumber. In just a few moments the home was a riot of movement and laughter as the twins bounced from their beds and bolted to the window to see the snow.
After breakfast, the twins donned their coats and boots and raced out to greet the fresh white powder of snow that had blanketed their tiny universe.
Lisa, the oldest by two minutes, stood triumphantly on the top step of the porch and proclaimed solemnly that this was the best Christmas snow ever. Linda, the smartest by her own assessment, stated wisely that while it was pretty there wasn’t enough yet to make a great snowman. The seven year olds then barreled down the steps and raced into the fresh white world of their front yard to verify this observation.
Hours later the sun beamed through the clouds and Mr. Jingles, the snowman, began to melt at an alarming rate. As the moppets despaired at the loss of their new friend, a familiar green mini-van turned onto Marigold Drive and plowed through the slush toward their driveway.
“Aunt Jane and Uncle Mike are here!” The girls ran and hugged them both fiercely. They babbled incessantly at the couple as the exited the van and began to unload.
Uncle Mike was daddy’s brother and he and aunt Jane lived in Chicago. They came for either Thanksgiving or Christmas every year and the girls always looked forward to their visits. Uncle Mike was a big burly fellow who never hesitated to take the opportunity to tickle the children mercilessly while he was there. Aunt Jane was pretty and smiled so big that sometimes they thought her head might pop off. Mommy came out and hugged aunt Jane and they spoke in whispers for a moment and then hurried inside.
Daddy smiled at uncle Mike from the porch. “Hey Mikey, you need some help?” Uncle Mike looked up and smiled warmly and shook his head. “Nope, I got it, but thanks.” With that he pulled two ginormous wrapped boxes from the back of the van, winked at the girls and trudged up the walk to the house.
The girls squealed with delight. As usual, Uncle Mike and Aunt Jane had brought the Christmas presents themselves. The girls were thrilled and chattered like magpies all the way into the house behind them.
All morning the girls kept watch for the family’s arrival and announced each new visitor with shouts of joy and love. Next came Gammy and Gampy in their old station wagon. Then Aunt Linda and Uncle Chuck driving a new sports car. Then, last but not least, Papa and Mama driving in their “sensible” car. Each arrival brought more boxes of food, and more importantly to the twins, more wrapped boxes of Christmas presents.
The family bustled about chatting and visiting and the girls sat fidgeting in front of the tree, wishing they could see through the paper and cardboard to the inside of each box.
After what seemed like an eternity of coffee and Danish and chitchat, the adults finally all settled into the living room and smiled at one and other. “Alright then, said Daddy. Let’s see what we have here.”
Uncle Chuck, with a Santa cap on his head began to dispense presents to each of them. The tradition was that all of the presents would be handed out before anyone could open a package and that they would be done one at a time. That way everyone could see and delight at the others gifts.
When it came time to open the first present Linda went first, she always got to go first, the one advantage to being the youngest.
She opened the big box from Uncle Mike and Aunt Jane.
As she tore away the paper and ripped into the box a shout of joy erupted from her like lava from a volcano. “Oh it’s a giant Teddy Bear.” She pulled the marvelous stuffed creature from its confining space and everyone ooohed. The bear was tan and about four feet high. He had a whimsical smile and bright shiny eyes. His ears and paws were satin and his fur was thick and warm. “Oh thank you so much. I needed a new bear Buster got wet and had to go to heaven.” Lisa looked at her and shook her head.
Uncle Mike smiled and said, “Well sweetie you take good care of him, okay? He is very homesick and misses his mommy and daddy very much. He needs someone to look after him.”
“Oh I will Uncle Mike thank you.” With that she rushed over and hugged her aunt and uncle tightly.
Lisa then opened her big box and screamed with joy at the huge dollhouse inside. The dollhouse was handmade and Lisa knew even at her young age how precious it was. Each of her male family members had made some part of it by hand, right down to the chairs and tables. Tears of joy streamed down her face as she hugged each one and thanked them for their gift of love. Lisa had received similar presents each year of her life and knew how special they were.
The rest of the presents were opened and smiles and laughter filled the house, everyone oohing and ahhing over each gift and relishing the time spent with their loved ones.
As the last present was opened, mommy got a bracelet from daddy. Uncle Mike stood up. “Everyone, I have a bit of an announcement to make. Seems like next year everyone is going to have to buy extra presents. My lovely bride and I are going to have a new baby by next Christmas.”
The quiet only lasted a moment then everyone yelled and cheered and began to congratulate the happy parents to be.
All through the day the conversation drifted back to that large brown bear and the main theme concerned his name, Aunt Jane suggested George or Ringo, her two favorite Beatles; Daddy liked the name Martin, Mommy suggested Teddy, but Linda decided he looked like a Brandon. Everyone sat for a moment and thought and decided that indeed Brandon was a superlative bear name. The day passed quickly as all Christmas days do, and the children finally headed for bed.
Late that night, as the clock in the hallway chimed twelve, Brandon blinked first his right eye and then his left. His smile grew less broad and more timid as he turned his head to survey the room.
The girls each slept in a small bed on either wall and the room was filled with stuffed toys and dolls of all sorts. There were clowns in satiny outfits, and ballerina dolls on their tiptoes, giraffes, kangaroos, and even a large blue-gray stuffed elephant in the corner. There were five wooden dollhouses of various sizes and styles and a shelf full of picture books.
Brandon looked for his mama and his brothers and sisters but they were nowhere to be seen and he began to grow increasingly frightened. He stood up and began to walk toward the bedroom door when a quiet but warm voice stopped him.
“Now just where do you think you are going, mister?”
Brandon turned quickly and saw the large elephant looking at him expectantly.
“I am going to find my mother. I am scared and lonely and I want to go home.”
“There, there, little fellow. Just relax. This is your home. You belong here now. Lisa would be sad if you were gone when she woke up.”
“But I miss my momma. She used to hold me when I was scared.” Brandon was trying to be brave but right about now he felt like crying. Why wasn’t his momma here?
“Little one, I don’t have much time. You are a Christmas toy and therefore very special. You will have to be careful never to let the children see you move or talk to them. Gerry and Tiger and I are birthday toys and we are only allowed to talk and move on birthdays and Christmas. Just know that the little girl will love you forever. You even get to sit in this wonderful rocking chair where the big people read them stories. You are a lucky little bear to be so loved so quickly.”
Gerry the Giraffe smiled at Brandon, “Welcome Home, Brandon. It’s wonderful to have you here. We love to have new friends and with you being a Christmas bear and all you can keep us up to date on everything that goes on around here.”
Tiger sat looking at Brandon. Then in one graceful movement she was right next to him. “Come little one, we will show you around and introduce you to the many wonderful things that await you.”
The foursome pad quietly around the house, with each of them pointing out things of interest and warnings to Brandon as they went. Finally, in the bathroom, they became sad and quiet. “This is where Buster met his fate. He sat too close to the bathtub and the girls had a bubble battle. Poor Buster never knew what hit him.” Ellie the elephant stifled a sob.
Suddenly, the Tiger whispered, “Shhh. It’s almost morning we must hurry back to the bedroom.” With that the three of them grabbed Brandon and rushed down the hallway.
No sooner had the others resumed their places than the footsteps of Daddy were heard in the house. Another day had begun.

The girls sat chattering at the breakfast table about all the fun they would have in the snow. Suddenly, Lisa said, “Brandon wants to come outside to play too. Can I take him with me mommy?”
Mommy looked at her and smiled patiently, “No darling, you can’t. Brandon might get lost, or wet. You just leave Brandon in the house today, okay?”
“Aaah, but mommy! Brandon is a big bear he can take care of himself. I promise I won’t get him wet mommy, I swear.” Lisa began to pooch out her bottom lip and make it tremble, a trick she had learned from Vanessa Walker in kindergarten.
Mommy and daddy both began to laugh and mommy finally gave in. “Alright, but daddy has to make Brandon a raincoat first.” Daddy looked at mommy, shook his head and laughed.
The girls finished breakfast and dashed up stairs to get dressed. Daddy took a drink of his coffee and looked at Brandon sitting quietly in one of Lisa’s dolly high chairs. Daddy smiled warmly and spoke to Brandon. “Well, old chap. It seems I must design you a raincoat for the day. Let’s go see what we have to work with.” Daddy picked Brandon up and carried him down the steps to the basement.
Brandon cringed in fright as they descended into the darkened basement. The room was cold, even to Brandon’s bear fur, and it smelled of old wood, grease and dampness. Scattered about across the tables were all sorts of strange instruments.
Brandon’s imagination raced as he peeked at each item. There were things with round blades covered by jagged teeth, long thin blades with straight teeth and some things with no teeth. Brandon whined, just a little.
Daddy sat Brandon down lovingly on the bench and began to rummage through the drawers under the counter-top. Brandon watched as he did this and slowly began to feel less afraid. While some things were a mystery to Brandon other things he recognized. Thread, staples and glue were among them. Brandon breathed a sigh of relief.
Daddy set about the job by pulling a big sheet of blue ground cloth over to the work area and cutting a bear sized panel from it. Then, he pulled out a rickety old sewing machine and made sleeves for Brandon’s arms. In just a few moments he had made a crude raincoat, hood included, from the blue plastic. He then grabbed two brass washers and sewed them on as buttons. Taking his pocketknife out he cut two holes for the buttons to go into and turned to Brandon.
“Well my little brown buddy. What do you think? I believe this is the first bear raincoat I have ever designed. Not bad, huh?”
Brandon looked at the coat and laughed to himself. It was beautiful. Just the style he would have picked out for himself. Brandon started to hum.
Daddy gently put the coat onto the bear. As he stepped back to enjoy his handiwork he could have sworn he heard humming. Daddy cocked an eyebrow inquisitively at the bear. “Did you just hum?”
Brandon stopped and stared amazed at daddy.
“I mean, it’s okay if you did. I don’t mind, it’s just I am not used to the stuffed animals in this house humming. Kind of caught me off guard with it is all.”
Brandon grinned sheepishly and nodded.
Daddy jumped in surprise and sat down quickly on the step. Plump! “Oh, my…you’re alive? I mean really alive? No this is just too much turkey. I’m still dreaming. You’re not alive, you can’t be.”
Brandon looked at daddy, smiled weakly and spoke. “Please, don’t be mad at me. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“I’m not scared,” daddy said haughtily. “Nor am I mad. I am just surprised. Or insane, I haven’t quite figured out which.”
“It’s a nice coat.” Brandon said still smiling.
“Why, thank you. You know you make something like this and you never know… what am I saying? I am standing here talking to a stuffed bear. This just isn’t possible.” Daddy was thinking about seeing a doctor, today if possible.
“What you mean is, it isn’t probable, anything is possible. It really is a matter of semantics. Being a parent, and all, you should be more careful about the words you choose to use.”
“Hey, don’t lecture me on grammar. I have a college degree, do you?”
“I’m a stuffed bear.” Brandon cried in his defense.
“My point exactly. Goodness, now I am not only talking to stuffed animals, I am having arguments with them. I have lost my mind, it just snapped. It’s a shame really, I am still a young man, much to young to become senile.”
The sound of the girls running through the house made them change the subject.
“Brandon, you can’t talk to the girls or to anyone else. Okay? Please promise me you won’t. I mean it’s bad enough that I am loosing my mind I don’t want the kids to be crazy too.”
Brandon thought for a moment and then looked at daddy. “Can I still talk to you? I think I would be so lonely without someone to talk with.”
“It’s a deal,” said daddy.

All day as the girls played in the snow and mommy talked to Aunt Jane, daddy sat at his computer staring into space. Daddy had just been kidding about being senile or insane, he knew he wasn’t, but still the idea of a talking stuffed bear was enough to keep him feeling unhinged.
The children finally came in as the sun began to set and the cold outside intensified. The entire family marveled at Brandon’s wonderful coat and congratulated daddy on doing a fine job with it.
All throughout the evening the family sat around telling stories of Christmases past and childhood memories. The family would be leaving tomorrow and the girls enjoyed the evening of grownups talking.
Brandon sat in front of the tree, still wearing his new raincoat and feeling quite dapper. Daddy would occasionally shoot quick looks at him during the evening and Brandon behaved himself.
Both Linda and Lisa fell asleep on the floor and daddy and Uncle Mike carried the twins upstairs and tucked them into bed.
As Brandon sat listening to the discussion, a warm and inviting smell wafted past his nose. It smelled delicious and Brandon glanced around the room to see if he could identify this wonderful aroma. Aunt Jane was sitting right next to Brandon and she set her coffee cup down on the floor. But this didn’t smell like coffee, this was that heavenly scent he had noticed.
Mommy noticed Aunt Jane set her cup down and said, “More cocoa, Jane? There is plenty left.”
“Oh, no thank you. The doctor wants me to take it easy on the sweets. But it was delicious.”
Cocoa, that was what they had called it, thought Brandon. I must try some cocoa.
Later, when everyone else was asleep, Brandon rose on his hind legs and walked into the kitchen. He didn’t know where cocoa came from but he could still smell it quite plainly.
Now in poor Brandon’s defense, it wasn’t that he meant to make the mess but a paw instead of thumbs does make some tasks more difficult than others. Brandon had not one, not two, not even three, but four whole cups of cocoa during the course of the night. He really liked cocoa.
The next morning, as usual, daddy was the first one up and when he walked into the kitchen to turn on the coffee the mess that confronted him was enormous. There was spilled cocoa all over the kitchen floor and counter-tops, the stove was covered with dried splotches with little brown fuzz stuck to them, and marshmallows were scattered all over the floor. And there, just inside the doorway was a cocoa bear print.
Daddy turned and looked darkly at Brandon. He then raced about the kitchen trying desperately to clean up the mess before mommy came in and saw it.
Brandon sat glumly looking at the mess and daddy trying so hard to clean it up. Now daddy would be even madder at him and Brandon didn’t want that.
Somehow, amazingly, he finished the kitchen before the coffee was finished and he sat down exhaustedly. Looking directly at Brandon, daddy began to talk without moving his lips. “What do you think you are doing there little bear? You can’t make a mess like that and just expect someone else to clean it up. From now on you clean up after yourself, do you understand?”
Brandon pondered this for a moment, and then, realizing that daddy wasn’t going to be too mad nodded agreement rapidly.
Mommy came into the room and placed her hand on daddy’s shoulder. “He really is quite a cute little bear isn’t he? Don’t you think he has wise eyes?”
Daddy coughed at that and almost spewed coffee across the living room carpet. He looked at the bear and smiled. “Yes, honey, I would have to say you were right about that. He does have wise eyes.”
All day the girls romped in the backyard. The yard was wide, expansive, and surrounded by a six-foot high wooden fence. The wind had blown during the night and thrown the light powder up onto the back fence. Behind the yard was an area known to the locals as the Woods. It was a large tract of land that had once belonged to the county but they had abandoned it years before. Now it was just a tangled web of trees and vines. It covered over three hundred acres, and hardly anyone ever ventured into it.
That night the wind howled out of the north and laid a thick crust of ice over all the snow. The trees danced in the wind and the streets glazed into pockets of black ice. The temperature dropped below zero and the world froze quickly.
Brandon heard the storm outside and began to shiver. Instinctively, being a bear and all, he cozied up in front of the fireplace and settled in for a long winter. Suddenly, he realized he was hungry and began to search the air for scents of food. A tantalizing aroma reached his nose and he started to follow it to its source.
The tray of cookies sat precariously on the counter and Brandon, being a good bear, remembered his promise to Daddy. He would not make a mess. But oh how could he climb up on the counter. It was so high.
Looking about the kitchen Brandon discovered the small step stool and jauntily slid it across the tile floor.
Again, the paws got in the way. Not having thumbs, Brandon was unable to grip the tray and it clattered to the floor. Brandon froze in terror and waited to see if anyone had heard the noise. After several breathless seconds, Brandon felt sure he was undetected and dropped quietly from the step stool.
Brandon first went about the task of getting the cookie crumbs off the floor. This consisted of him rooting around with his nose and then licking the crumbs off the tile. He then placed each cookie back on the tray carefully, making sure to keep the crumbs to a minimum.
Then, using his snout he pushed the tray across the floor and into the living room. There, beside the fire, he feasted on cookies, some tasted mildly like cocoa, others tasted sugary, and still others tasted like nuts. He liked those the best. He then snuggled in and got warm by the fire.
As he drifted off to sleep Brandon imagined all the fun he would have with his new friends, Ellie the elephant, Gerry the giraffe and Tiger the Bengal tiger. He also wondered about his momma and siblings and yawned a big yawn and drifted off to sleep.

The Christmas Bear


Colorado Springs, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

A story for Kristi

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