I had a clutch of anxiety this morning when I couldn’t find Paddington. I wanted to make sure the tiny bear hadn’t gotten tossed when we stripped our 15-year-old son’s room, painted it, and transformed it into what looks like a man cave, with black furniture and nary a toy or book in sight.
Christopher has had the miniature Paddington since he was a baby, and while he isn’t the slightest bit attached to the toy, I am. I’d tuck Paddington into his crib, and later when Christopher was older and steering toy cars around on the floor, Paddington was an occasional passenger in James Bond’s Astin Martin. In the years since Christopher has outgrown all that, Paddington resided in the corner of the sock drawer, his red boots cheerfully punctuating the tangle of mismatched footwear.
This room makeover will probably be the last. Fifteen now, in 10th grade, looming over both of us at 6’2”, Christopher will leave for college in the blink of an eye, and his room will become only a way station for what I hope will be at least occasional visits home.
Over the years, we’ve changed his quarters around many times. We swapped the crib for a bed, sorted toys and books as he outgrew them, traded Look Alikes, I Spy, and books about construction equipment for Scariest Stories and Harry Potter, moved aside the thousands of Legos that perpetually crunched underfoot for an iPod, and lately, made room for textbooks weighing more than a hefty toddler. We donated toys and books continually over the years, and each of these transitions has given me pangs. I packed up Rocky, the stuffed terrier, the model B75 biplane, the well-thumbed copy of The Complete Roald Dahl, and hoisted them into the attic, unable to completely sever that tie between the sunny toddler, the laughing grade-schooler, and the ever-growing young man.
The maple dresser where Paddington lived most recently is a hand-me-down, purchased in the 50s by my former in-laws, solid maple, very well crafted with mortise and tenon handiwork, made in Burlington, Vt. There’s a new, low, black dresser now, and when I mused aloud about what to do with the old one, my son truculently recommended chopping it up for firewood.
I spotted Paddington on a shelf in the hall, filled with a jumble of drumsticks, games, books, trophies, hats, marbles, and model Lamborghinis. All this stuff awaits triage: attic, dustbin, or Goodwill. Christopher must have tossed Paddington there to await his fate when he cleared out the old (potential firewood) dresser. I’m glad he didn’t chuck him, and I’d like to think he’d vote that Paddington gets to stay. I didn’t wait for him to make that determination, however, snatching up the small bear and putting him safely in my own drawer. In his blue velvet coat, Paddington is a two-inch keepsake of a time when Christopher ventured out into January rains in a similar hat and boots, when he loved to have me read to him about London adventures, and when I hadn’t yet imagined the day that would separate us.