from early '00s
The mother's collection had started just a few years earlier when the youngest son in the family purchased a trendy 'pot-bellied' bear in a desperate attempt to buy a memorable gift for his mom, notorious for her "I'd love some note cards" answer to the question of what she wanted for Christmas. When the mother opened the package with the bear, she hugged it immediately, effusing over its cuteness, and named her Deedee. "How do you know it's a girl? asked the giver of the gift. "I just do!" replied the mother.
|Jules always sat still
when being painted
Fast forward several decades, and the bear collection was overtaking needed space. So . . . the mother sadly weeded all but ten, keeping her favorite bears, the ones with strong sentimental value. Jules was one of the ten (yes, of course, Deedee was too), and eventually made his way into the now-deceased Father's office, a room so empty without its thriving business being operated from its confines that the Mother began calling it the Bare Den. When it occurred to the Mother to set out the remains of her bear collection on the empty shelves in the Bare Den, the name of the room morphed into the Bare Bear Den.
Now it's January 2017 and the Mother has just had surgery. She needs a little pillow to put under her arm to remind her not to fully turn over on that side until healing has taken place. Searching for the right-sized pillow, she enters the Bare Bear Den and picks up Jules. "Ah, maybe you could help me, Jules," she says. She then strips him of his clothing . . . and tucks him under her armpit. Jules turns out to be the perfect size and softness-quotient for the task at hand. Before too many days go by, she begins thinking of Jules as "Baby Bear," a gender-free name reassignment.
As the months of 2017 tick by, the Mother decides that Baby Bear has a place in her life, filling the need of Listener from time to time (and Baby Bear never talks back, a good thing.) She realizes that she doesn't think of Jules as a male anymore. Without clothing, there is no profiling of gender . . . a Jules could be a Julie and, in fact, is known now simply as "Baby Bear." And this gives her pause. She doesn't want to be flippant about this matter (a stuffed animal most accurately would be described as gender neutral) because she is deeply understanding and compassionate about issues surrounding transgender people. But she realizes how much of our expectation about behavior and propriety has to do with clothing and its encompassing assumptions. Absence of male clothing has completely negated the assignment of a male name.
Underneath that surface judgement we all make is what doesn't meet the eye--the essence of each being, which really has nothing to do with assignment of sex. Even this dear stuffed animal, now a steady bedtime companion for the Mother (who almost never goes to sleep without tucking it under her arm, even though not required for medicinal healing) can teach us that lesson.She wonders what she would have named the bear if it had arrived without it's handsome outfit. Of course, she'll never know, but she loves Baby Bear for this insight.