I have heard someone say a long time ago, that a toy is a child’s first friend. I could never imagine how true it was until a year ago when I stumbled into a box of unused toys. A little brown creature amidst broken cars, headless dolls and what looked like small plastic pans and plastic food. I could only figure its behind. Its head buried in a sea of once was a little girl’s paradise. Remembering that figure, I quickly rescued him from drowning. There he was, a hole in his right ear with threads coming out visible against his brown fur. I see white scratches in his left eye and the fur that was once smooth and shiny was now pale and rough. And the button nose that hung at the end of his snout remained brown save for a few scratches had hard times, hard times brought by growing up. Of me growing up. Despite his appearance, he was still after all, my Teddy, the same Teddy that I used to hug years ago. But he was no ordinary bear. He was my playmate, my confidante and my best friend.
My mother told me that I’ve had him since I was five months old. He was given to me as a Christening gift by an aunt who also happened to be my ‘ninang’. Mother remembered that when he was still new he had a silk ecru ribbon tied around his neck. But my oldest memory of Teddy was when I was four. We—my mother and I—had just arrived from visiting my father in Cotabato and we were walking along Imelda Extension on our way home. My mom held our bag in her left hand while her other hand clasped against my right hand. I remember her saying, almost a whisper, the words, ‘Kapot tak kamot kay matabok kita.’ (Hold my hand, we’re crossing the street.) And I remember clutching Teddy to my chest. Mimicking my mother I whispered to Teddy’s ear, ‘Kapot, kay matabok kita.’
Since then, Teddy had my fullest attention. but this did not remain for long. He was joined by Lisa, Jennifer, Mr. Piggy and Barbie. Lisa was blonde, blue-eyed, had white skin made of plastic. All she could do was sit and stand. I tried to make her do some flips but she ended up standing on her head. Why? She couldn’t pull it off because her arms were too short. Next came Jennifer. She had brown skin, golden hair, and a cotton-stuffed body save for her arms and legs which were made of rubber. She was fond of lying around, sprawling like some dead animal. One day, my cousin happened to play with a pair of scissors. He pierced the blade directly to Jennifer’s chest. I wasn’t sorry at all. Then came Mr. Piggy. I remember the day we bought him. The saleslady said she was a pig when I raised a brow questioning the ‘creature’ my mother picked. The saleslady was blind, he wasn’t a pig. He was just a pink round ball with coal eyes that seem to look nowhere. He lasted for about six years. Then there was every girl’s dream—Barbie. She had shapely legs, a tiny waist, a large bum, a neat bust and tanned. But what drew me to her was her smile. Barbie is happy all the time. Even though her hair’s a mess she’s still smiling. Even though I cut her hair she’s still smiling. I was six. Someday I thought, someday I’d be like Barbie. But where was Teddy? Well, if he’s not sitting beside me in school, he’s with me figuring out the pieces of the jigsaw puzzles or he could be seen napping beside me in the afternoons. He was always with me.
After three long years of grade school I have come to realize my life’s ambitions. I first thought of becoming a dotor and Teddy was my nurse while Mr. Piggy was the victim, er patient. Mr. Piggy was suffering from constipation. Little cotton stuff kept coming from his behind. After a week, I kept him under observation while Teddy monitored the rise and fall of his chest. Then I became a teacher. I was eight when I started reading books other than fairy tales. Nan, my 12-year old imaginary friend from Plumfield urged me to read Whitman. So Teddy and I both read ‘Beat! Beat! Drums!’. One problem. What does entomological meant? Specimen? Was Jupiter a name of a person or a planet? I saw Teddy’s eyes stare into nothingness. Sunday that week I took all my Kindergarten textbooks and taught him that a is for apple and b is for ball and so on…
Four years from that, I found myself alone in my room, with Teddy. Earlier that day, my uncles and I accompanied my mother to the airport. She then left when a voice called saying that airplane number and so on was on the runway. Before I went to sleep, my lolo and lola told me not to cry because mother will be back in a few months. But I couldn’t fight the tears. I was afraid to cry on the pillows and the blankets because when I wake up they’ll find all my pillows wet and they’ll know I cried. So that night, I cried on Teddy.
Then I started high school. I had no more time for jigsaw puzzles and reading lessons. Teddy sat in the headboard of my bed and stayed there until I found hardened blood on my back, destined to be untouched until our younger sister turned two.
Teddy became Ai’s playmate. I thought it would be good for him to bring back the old times. But I and my sister, despite coming from the same womb are different entities. I saw Teddy sprawling on the ground as my sister runs a truck on him. But the arrival of Alexandra and Maybel led Teddy under the bed. And with a swoop of my mother’s cleaning hands, banished Teddy to the cave of worn-out desires, trash box of old delights. Until that day when I rescued him, restored him to my memory.
I brought him to school. I was in my junior year of college and we were busy preparing for a Photo Exhibit. Atong noticed Teddy lying around my things. She asked me if she could have Teddy pose for her pictures. I agreed and Teddy became the subject of two of her photos. One was entitled ‘Lost’ and the other was ‘Forgotten’. I secretly whispered to Teddy’s ear that I am going to print him a copy. I just didn’t promise when. Since then, Teddy sat on my bedside, waiting for his photos.