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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Chicago Review Press

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RIP, Minty Bear.

We have returned from Montauk, full of sandy, lobster-rolly memories, but missing a beloved member of our family: Minty Bear.

Henry and his Minty Bear.

Henry and Minty Bear.

I bought Minty Bear--so named for her pastel-green hue—when I was five months pregnant. When I didn't yet understand that when you have a baby, the world dumps truckloads of stuffed animals over your head. When I couldn't have predicted that within months we would be cramming animals into industrial-sized plastic bags and hauling them to the Salvation Army, where they would join their bereft, plushy brethren.

Anyway, when Henry was an infant we kept Minty Bear in his crib, because it didn't have any pull-out eyes or pop-'em-off buttons or related chokeables. He liked it fine, but then again he was also smitten with the ceiling fan, and would spend hours chuckling at it. There you go again, ceiling fan. Whirling and whirling. Oh, ceiling fan, you are a minx. But as the months passed he developed a decided preference for Minty over the ten or so stuffed animals that we had room for. Sure, he had the occasional fling with Black Bear or Teensy the Elephant. There was that weird jag with Tup Tup, the hard-bodied, scratchy-furred Siamese Cat Steiff. But in the end, he always came back to Minty.

The Minty/Henry bond was only strengthened over the years. Every night, he gathered Minty Bear in his arms and hunkered down on top of her. Every morning, he dragged her out of bed and downstairs to join him in buildng his mighty Lego Army, occasionally stopping to kiss her ears and murmur her name. He enjoyed discussing her positive attributes: her softness, her excellent smell. (A smell built up from countless nights of either drooling or peeing on her—or, hell, both--which no amount of washing could totally expunge.) She was his baby. His words.

The night we returned from Montauk, Scott asked me, as he does most nights, where Minty Bear had gone to. Henry made do that night with Black Bear while the two of us searched. And searched and searched. And I realized that at the hotel, I had failed to execute a final under-the-bed search before we left, although I had checked every other nook and cranny of the room. I called the hotel. The woman who answered the phone promised to call if it was found, but when I offered to give her a description, she just said, "It's a bear. Got it," and hung up. I didn't hold out much hope.

The next morning we told Henry that Minty Bear was probably gone for good. He asked me to call the hotel again, which I did. No luck. He nodded and said, "Okay, next we need to call the police." I tried to explain that typically the police weren't called in such matters. That's when his lower lip started trembling. "You mean I'll never see her again? Not even when I die?"

It went on like that for a while. He wept for her and also recited poetry on the spot about Minty Bear "going to sea" while his heart "blew up." He had us both in tears by the end when he sang a song called "Bye Minty/Bye Henry," in which both bear and boy bid each other adieu, forever and ever. (He sang both parts.)

Then he asked me to call the hotel again.

He seemed to recover after that, although he had moments—moments in which he demanded that I look at him as his eyes spilled big fat teardrops and he whispered "I'll never see Minty again." My own heart was blowing up. I called the hotel a few more times. They didn't ask me not to call again, but they thought it.

Then, yesterday, we found another Minty Bear. We were at a toy store, finding a present for another child, a child whose parents have probably never misplaced that child's best friend and soulmate, when I spied Minty Bear II on a shelf. I picked it up. I wasn't sure if this was a good move.

"Henry?" I said, and showed it to him. He looked it over, gave it a hug."It doesn't feel right," he said. "It feels too fat." He looked at it some more. "No, it's good. I think we should take it."

But on the way home he wept more for Minty Bear, and I doubted the wisdom of the purchase. "Oh Minty," he keened. "Gone forever."

"Maybe we should tell this Minty Bear about the other one, so she knows how special she was to you."

Nothing from the backseat. Then: "You go first."

So I told Minty Bear II all about Minty Bear I. How I had found her in a store when Henry wasn't born yet, and I knew she was meant to be his bear. How much Henry loved her. How he loved to smell her ears, which smelled like stale little-boy pee (I didn't say that part). And how she was his baby.

Then I kept going. I said that Minty Bear loved Henry so much that she told all her relatives about him, about this great deal she had with this amazing little boy. And her relatives were jealous. Why do you get all that love when we're stuck in this toy store? they wondered. So she cut a deal with one of her cousins, a bear who happened to be waiting for a boy of his own in New Jersey, of all places. I've had plenty of good years, she told her cousin, so I'll take off and maybe, just maybe, they'll find you. And that's just what happened. And in this way Henry made two bears very, very happy.

He was suspiciously quiet. Was he sleeping? I pulled up to the house and turned around. He was staring at the bear. He looked at me. "We did a good thing," he said. He kissed the new Minty Bear's ears, and closed his eyes.

Reader Comments (199)

Wow. You ARE an awesome mom! But! Don't lose hope about Minty Bear I returning. My sister left her precious bear in a random hotel (or even a Motel, more likely knowing my family) on one of our many road trips, and my mom called the place and we never heard back until, I am not even kidding, 9 months later we received the bear in a box in the mail. Bizarre!
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
What a beautiful story.

And that photo! The eyelashes! Henry's perfect leeetle fingers! Goodbye, Minty Bear I.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterwhoorl
God...kill a girl will ya? Awesome.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermelodyk99
Hudson's Puppy has spent a night at the dollar store, and a couple of nights under the couch. We purchased a back-up Puppy to have on hand in case we couldn't locate the original, but I think at this point I would be more upset than Hud if Puppy were lost forever. It's so symbolic of his childhood to me.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterclaudia
Now that was a fantastic story.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commentererika
Lovely, Alice. Just lovely.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy the Mom
As someone who has still not gotten over losing her own teddy bear (and life-long companion) at the ripe old age of 16, I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that this post made me cry. I'm so glad you found Minty Bear II!
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLuisa
This really does put into perspective a waterboarding incident over the weekend involving my toddler's beloved stuffed cow and a toilet.

I would never had recovered so gracefully to the situation you described. Alice for President!
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTammy
Frequent reader, never comment, but I had to for this one. Lovely, just lovely.

I ahd a similar experience. My daughter lost her beloved Elmo doll while in he care of my husband, and I had to brave a Borders four days before Christmas to get annother one. Which she clutched to her and tried to rip out of the box, SCREAMING, while I waited in the interminably long line. I love the Borders guys because they tag teamed the purchase, working heroically to get him out of the box and into her arms. I'd told her Elmo had been on vacation.

And you know what? She doesn't even sleep with the damn thing anymore.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmyinMotown
awwwwwww! Poor Henry! I remember that same feeling of losing a beloved lovie! I cried for Minty Bear and remembered losing Dairy my cow. Of course I was 26 so maybe I should be a little more embarassed about that than I am, but whatever! So glad there is a happy ending for Henry! (there was for me to, retail therapy and a look alike cow named Soy Milk. A few years later Dairy showed up at the bottom of a box! Maybe Minty will show up again and Henry will have the start of his Minty Bear army! Yay Henry!)
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJudypooh
There is no way my cold sarcastic heart could come up with a story that good, even for my children. Alice, that was beautiful. I will call you the next time my kids need someone good to explain something to them.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLisa V
gag :)
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJ
Wow, I've so been there. Except we didn't have a Minty Bear, we had Orange Bear. And now, Orange Bear II. Who isn't allowed to leave our sight. Ever. And just in case, my son has taken several pictures of Orange Bear II to help the police locate him if he is bearnapped.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMogavina
*sigh*Now MY heart is blowing up.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
Would it be wrong of me to cry about that? Because its just so sad! Poor Minty Bear and poor little Henry.

You did do a good thing, mama.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKarly
A perfect beginning to the legacy of Minty Bear II.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterchirky

Last week my 16-month-old threw Ba-ba, her beloved scrap of a rainbow blanket, out of her stroller, and I didn't notice he (Ba-ba is a male blanket scrap; I don't know how I know this, but I do) was missing for HOURS. When she started asking for him before her nap, I realized he was gone, panicked, and set out on a heartsick journey to retrace every step we had taken earlier that day (we'd probably walked about half a mile, gone to various stores, etc. ) Half an hour later, just as she was breaking out the "Where is ba-ba?" song she sings when I playfully hide him from her (and I was ready to kill myself for not having cut him in half so there'd be a backup blanket) I saw him: some noble stranger had picked him up and kindly hung him over a fence where he would be visible! I literally ran to him weeping with gratitude. I think she thought it was all part of some extra-special let's-hide-baba game. I still haven't been able to bring myself to chop the poor guy in half, but he now has our phone number emblazoned on him in Sharpie.

All that to say, thanks for that story --anyone whose child has a transitional object knows what it is to mourn an inanimate scrap of cloth. God rest Minty, and a long life to Minty II !
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlizpenn
Any by the way what are the chances that you'd find a second Minty, five years after getting the first one and in a different state? I definitely think Minty the first was behind this somehow. Maybe she and Henry are like Kate WInslet and Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine -- they're destined to find each other in Montauk again someday.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlizpenn
My 3 year old son has had his constant companion, a floppy yellow-ish dog named "Puppy", since he was born. Unfortunately, Puppy suffered a fate similar to Minty Bear on a trip this past January to the Denver Children's Hospital. My husband and I looked for Puppy in the freezing cold, to no avail, and I think we were almost more upset than my son was. However, thanks to the wonders of e-Bay, we found a replacement for Puppy, and all was right with the world.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKristen
Oh great, now my boss probably thinks I have some sort of weird personal issue because I am sitting here silently weeping at my desk. My daughter is only 6 months old, so she hasn't really picked a favorite toy yet, but reading this made me think of a scenario in which this might happen to her someday and now I am sobbing even harder! In a couple years my baby might lose her favorite toy and be heartbroken! I am a terrible mother who never should have had kids!!
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBertha
Your sweet story reminds me of this sweet story.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkate
OMG! I am sitting here just bawling. That is the sweetest story and just about broke my heart. Don't DO that!!

My twins have "Rosie" a really ugly dept. store doll with a plastic face that is now brown from all the ground in love, and "Minnie" a minnie mouse dressed up like snow white. My girls are almost 10 and I still have cold sweats thinking about what would happen if one of them were lost. Especially Rosie, there is no way we would find another of those. Minnie has a back-up hidden in a dresser drawer, thanks to my husband's Aunt Joan who works at Disneyland, and had the forethought enough to send us another when we told her how much the first Minnie meant to our little Bean. :-)
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEvie
Thank you for that lovely, lovely post. It made me realize once again the transformative power of words; they can turn near-tragedy into something sweet and funny and profound. What an amazing gift you have for story-telling.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterheidi
Jesus, could you make me cry any more?

I smell a children's story premise RIGHT HERE!
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
Damn you Alice and your tale of childhood loss.

Now I'm shedding a tear for Henry and Minty as well as for the loss of my sister's beloved Brown Blanky which was lost, coincidently, on a trip in the NorthEastern US.

Warning to parents: The North Eastern states are like a bermuda traingle for vacationing children and thier security blankets/bears!

Thanks for the lovely story.
July 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermartina

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