Family faces bedtime crisis when Buddy Bear goes missing

Sunday, June 2, 2002

The nightmare came suddenly.

Bailey had left her Buddy Bear at her summer day-care center.

She wailed at the thought of having to sleep one night without her thread-bare, terry cloth bear.

Bailey has been attached to her Buddy Bear for six years now. Buddy has been dropped in mud puddles and bounced around on SEMO District Fair rides. Tattered at times, Buddy still manages to wear a smile.

He keeps our soon-to-be first grader company when she goes to sleep.

Bailey has other stuffed animals, but none gets the nightly hugs that she reserves for Buddy Bear.

So when we learned that Buddy was missing the other day, our family's alarm bells went off. Call out the Army. Call out the dogs. This was a major crisis.

A night without Buddy was almost unthinkable. Joni and I weren't sure if Bailey could make it through the night without that loveable bear. We wondered if anyone in the family would get any sleep.

Becca let Bailey borrow her little teddy bears, a major concession on the part of a 10-year-old sibling. They helped, but still Bailey missed Buddy. Even Bailey's Rainbow Buddy, which bears a striking resemblance to Buddy Bear except for the colors, couldn't make up for the loss.

Bailey ended up drawing a picture of her holding Buddy's hand. She put the drawing on the table beside her bed so she could see her bear as she drifted off to sleep.

It worked because Bailey slept through the night and then enjoyed a cheerful reunion with her bear at the day-care center the next morning.

One thing about our youngest daughter, she views Buddy Bear as a constant companion. She tells us that Buddy Bear will one day attend her wedding where she'll have a reserved spot on the front row.

I'm not sure Buddy will be around that long. Bailey's hugged and stretched him to his limits.

But she's confident Buddy will stay around, if only because Bailey can't imagine life without her cuddly bear.

Bailey doesn't like for him to be washed because he'll lose his "smell." Joni worries he will simply unravel during one of his "baths." That's our excuse for his pitiful appearance.

During the school year, Buddy was an honored guest in Bailey's backpack, a prized pupil that kept out of sight.

It didn't matter that Buddy hid in the backpack all year to comply with classroom rules. Bailey knew that Buddy was there for her, like a true friend.

We all grew up with our secret helpers, those bears, blankets and ball caps that made us feel special.

One day Bailey will put Buddy in storage. But I don't think it will happen soon.

Personally, it's hard to imagine life in our home without Buddy. In his Joni-made outfits, he's a part of the family. He even wore a tuxedo to a recent wedding.

The great thing about Buddy Bear is that he'll never complain about where to eat out or even going to Scout meetings.

It's great to have such a companion. It does make for plenty of one-sided conversations. But there are no arguments to cloud the day.

The only serious problems center on losing Buddy. He's so quiet that Bailey often forgets where she left him.

It's clear -- we need a beeper for Buddy, something to keep track of him so he won't be AWOL at bedtime.

Even during summer vacation, it's important to pay attention to the bear.

Of course, we try to keep him indoors so he won't age too fast. We don't want him to hibernate just yet. Besides, Buddy Bear gets plenty of rest, curled up next to Bailey's face all night long.

With a little tender-loving care, he'll stay around for some time.

Buddy's more than Bailey's bear. He's our family mascot who makes life a little more bearable, hugs and all.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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