Before driving to Colorado with Mom's ashes, I sorted through her remaining possessions, looking for things to take to Trout Lake to keep in her cabin there as a kind of memorial to her:
~the antique doll buggy given to her when she was four years old,
~her diary of 1936-38,
~photos of her with her brother Reynold Gustafson and her cousin Walter Pera,
~her framed poem "Work,"
~the photo collage I made for the door of her room at the assisted living.
I also came across things that needed to be given to the Salvation Army but had so far escaped that fate.
Then I saw the pink plush bear that sits on a shelf and sings:
L is for the way you look at me.
O is for the only one I see.
V is very very extraordinary.
E is even more than anyone that you adore.
And love is all that I can give to you.
Love is more than just a game or two.
Two in love can make it;
Take my heart and please don't break it!
Love was made for me and you.
I found this bear in the Mission Hospital gift shop when Mom was having surgery for her second broken hip in August, 2004. It has two strings of pearls and a white plush wide-rimmed hat with a pink silk ribbon tied in a rosette. Another ribbon comes from the back to tie in front at the waist in an elegant, floppy bow.
Its head bobs left and right, the mouth opening and closing as it sings, sitting upright on a solid oval base though the arms and legs are soft, a shiny pale pink velveteen with stuffing.
I had squeezed its paw and played it for her many times in 2004 and later, always bringing a smile to her face. Sometimes she tilted her head left and right in rhythm with the music, as if dancing to it though sitting upright in her bed.
Yes, I decided, the bear has to go to Colorado. It rode in the car with me across the desert and up into the mountains, representing my mother's taste in dress in her later years with its hat and bows and pearls and plush pink.
While I was cleaning my house at Trout Lake, however, I noticed things that needed to be given away and decided that the pink bear was one of them. Surely it should be given to some poor child who would enjoy it.
In Telluride there's a collection of shelves and bins called the Free Box; people leave items, and others who have needs come by and sort through them, taking anything valuable. I drove there.
Dropping off my bags, I placed the bear on a shelf in full view, hoping someone would take it home to a child, hesitating to leave the bear but finally driving off to return to Trout Lake.
Leaving town, however, I thought of the bear sitting there and wanted to go back and get it.
I pulled over and yelled at myself: "You're crazy, Anne. Why do you want that bear? It should go to a poor child. You can't keep everything."
"But it reminds me of her," I answered myself. "It means more to me than it would to some child who would get it."
Feeling completely foolish, I turned around and drove back to the Free Box, walked up to the bear, and picked it up in full sight of a couple of Mexican-American men lounging there.
As I again drove out of town, I squeezed the pink bear's paw so it sat in the front seat singing, "L is for the way you look at me...."
Back in her cabin, I put it on the bureau in the bedroom, but a few days later, thinking of the dust and mice that would attack it over the winter, I took the bear to my car and drove it back to California, where it sits in my house near Mom's glass cabinet holding her doll collection.
I need to give away more of the dolls and sort through her many papers and photos--but the pink bear is here to stay.