I've never actually met this family. But we've been communicating this past month...through a stuffed bear.
This is the 2-inch bear that brought us together. He has been the subject of an adventure blog for a half year. I keep him in my camera bag and when I'm inspired, I put him in photos and let "him write" about his adventures in a blog.
Here he is, posing on a fire hydrant in downtown Lake Placid, NY. 15 minutes after the photo was taken, I discovered a hole in my pocket. I had no luck finding him after I retraced my steps, so I left a few "Missing" flyers nearby.
A Mysterious Email
Five days later, I returned to Texas and found an email containing this photo. The email was written by "Little Bear" as he is called in the blog. He wrote, "A nice family found me in the parking lot nearest the fire hydrant. Although my fur is tattered and torn, I am fit enough to go traveling with them..." Then in the days that followed I received numerous photo emails showing L.B. in the midst of adventures, on fishing lures, near ski jumps, on a horse's saddle. It was pretty fun to imagine a family really finding my silly bear and playing along. But was it a family? Or was some person just teasing me with these photos?
The Best Kind of Family
But then an email arrived with a family photo. The tiny bear took his own spot in the photo. There was an email written by the family, not the bear this time. They said they wanted to keep him a few more days for some more adventures and then they would send him safely home. All I could do was grin and reply "Of course!" I asked if I could post their picture in the blog, since they are the heroes of this story. The response was yes, along with a mention that Little Bear had been one of the best parts of their vacation.
And then, this photo arrived.
How could I not be touched by this? Should I tell them to just keep the bear?
In the Mail!
But then, about 20 days after the bear went missing, a bright envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was a decorated box holding L.B. and a new friend. A note written by the daughter, Hannah put a lump in my throat. She had sent along "Rose" to keep L.B. company in case he was lost again. Unbelievable. How is it possible I would lose this tiny toy and it would be found by a family so kind and playful.
After all the wondering, I began to feel like I knew this family. I knew the dad, Ed had to have a good sense of fun, because the photos were sent by his phone. I could tell Hannah was playful and caring, by her letter and hand-decorated box. I knew the mom, Tracy was patient and thoughtful when I saw the little torn paws had been repaired.(L.B. had been run over by a car) And this morning when I received a long email from Tracy, I learned about Blake. This young boy was the one who found the bear and had helped his family create adventures for Bear to be a part of. My favorite adventure was one that involved posing L.B. on a mushroom, cuddling up with a tiny mouse they had just rescued from the cat.
Thank you, Ed, Tracy, Hannah and Blake!
You don't seem like strangers anymore and you won't be forgotten. It's a relief to know families can still have fun together without expensive amusement park tickets or electronic games. I enjoyed picturing your family laughing over dinner about the next adventure you could create for Little Bear. Thanks for sending the little guy back. Hopefully you received a surprise in the mail today!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers