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Honey (The Christmas Bear)
By Sharmagne Leland-St. John-Sylbert
Recently I was asked to name my favourite childhood toy, and I really
couldn't come up with one particular toy that I would classify as my all-time
favourite.  That set me to thinking.
My daughter's favourite "toy" was a white bear named Honey.  It was nineteen
hundred and eighty-four.  We were still living at Chateau La Fontaine.  This
was Daisy's first Christmas, and she was exactly seven months "new."  In my
mind's eye, I can still see my husband, Richard, sitting cross-legged on the
Oriental rug, He was wearing a bright red cashmere cardigan sweater from that
wonderful shop in the Burlington Arcade, a drastic change from his usual drab
khaki safari jackets.  Daisy had on a little pink frock with bluebirds
embroidered on the delicate white collar. She was settled cozily on her
father’s lap, her arms curled around the red cashmere clad arms that held
her.  My friend Iris who attended her birth was also there as were Iris's
mother Janet, and a handful of family members and close friends.  Daisy's
godfather Warren had sent a rather large box brilliantly wrapped in Santa
Claus paper tied with red and green bows. (or Helen his secretary had!)  
When we opened the box, there was a black-eyed, fluffy, white bear with a
slightly turned up pink nose, resting in an abundance of white tissue paper. 
Not a polar bear, mind you, just a plain white bear with a pink nose.  From
the time they first met, Warren and my husband, Dick, had always had a pet
name for each other.  It was "Honey."  The second that bear was lifted out of
that box, I took one look at it and said, "HONEY!"
Honey has a personality of "its" own.  Honey is androgynous.   Some days she
seems to be a little girl bear and other times he is a rambunctious little
boy bear.  Some days she can be found wearing little pink tea dresses and
other times looking quite nautical in his little blue and white sailor suit
and red tie with the perfectly tied square knot.  Honey has traveled the
world with us.  We figure he was about 7 months old when he came to live with
us that last Christmas at La Fontaine.  His first trip was to the South of
France when he was a year old. S/he spent her days at Miami Plage near the
Hotel Negresco and nights snuggled up in Daisy's tender arms in her crib at
Le Grande Hotel du Cap.  He met Prince on that trip.   Sometimes he got to
have his own seat on the aeroplane, such as the time we went to Belgium to
visit Le Baron Jean-Patrick deSelys-Longchamps at Mellery en Brabant.  He
went on a boat ride down the Canals, with the Baron, in a small town near Br
ugges.  His little black eyes reflected  the cobblestone streets and the
Carolinian architecture in the quaint little village as we glided past. Honey
went to live 'at' Canada when she was 2 1/2, and s/he went to New York and
Hawai'i when s/he was 5.  Honey had sunglasses and a little yellow bathing
suit with green and orange trim.  At 6, Honey traveled to England and took
tea at the Ritz and met the Queen.  She was wearing her little frilly pink
tea-party dress (Honey, not Her Majesty.)  At age 7, Honey went to Vera Cruz,
Mexico, Berlin, Athens and Cairo. 

In Greece, s/he got a little black Greek hat that was just her size, and in
Mexico, a little  white sailor hat with the name of the town written on it in
tiny blue cursive letters.  Honey met Liam Neeson and Andie Mac Dowell while
floating down the Nile.  When s/he was 8, s/he got to go to New York again
and ride in Hansom cabs through Central Park, play on the swings near Sheep's
Meadow and go to the Bronx Zoo.  She had tea at the famous Palm Court in the
Plaza Hotel and Shirley Temple cocktails at the Algonquin, ice cream at
Rumplemayer's and trips to FAO "shorts".  She met Eloise and Al Pacino.  She
went to Arlington, Washington when she was 9 and spent a summer on the river
fly-fishing in a float boat and berry picking and picnicking on the shores of
the Stillaguamish; the best steelhead river in the world!  Honey especially
loved Colonial Williamsburg when s/he was 10.  S/he met all the American Girl
Dolls!  There were summers in Cabo San Lucas and Loretto in Baja, Beaver Dam,
Wisconsin and Chicago, Illinois.  Every Christmas there were gifts under a
carefully decorated tree with Honey's name on them...  boxes and packages
full of little dresses and nightgowns and new hats.  When Honey went to
Washington DC, s/he somehow, got caught up in the linens, and when Daisy and
her classmates turned to come home, Honey was missing.  Perhaps one of the
girls had hidden her as a mean joke.  Daisy was devastated. She had loved
that bear all her life and had never left home without her.  She even quit
Sunday School when she was 3 because a horrid woman had locked Honey in the
closet and told Daisy she couldn't have the bear back until after the Sunday
School class was over.  When the plane landed in Los Angeles from DC without
Honey, Daisy was so ill she couldn't deplane by herself.  I had to carry her
from her seat in the back of the plane all the way to the waiting room.  When
I asked her where Honey was she burst into tears,  "BEAR NAPPED!" As
soon as we got home at around midnight, I called the hotel in Washington DC
and told them there was a reward for a small white bear with a patch of fur
missing on her left leg, cataracts covering black eyes, a crooked pushed in
pink nose, and who was last seen wearing a red flannel Lanz nightgown with
little brown teddy bears on it.  Daisy didn't sleep well at all that night. 
None of us did.  It was as if one of our own children had gone missing.  Two
days, a message was sent up to me in the Library at school where I
volunteered.  "Would Mrs. Sylbert please come down to the office? " No one
likes to be called into the school office, so with butterflies in my tummy, I
descended Victorian stairs and presented my dubious self to Rose, the
administrator's assistant.  
"Oh! There's a package here for you," she said.
I had been expecting some books from the book faire.  I picked up the "rather
too light for books"box and returned to the library, a tad disappointed that
it was not the books I had ordered.  From a moment of disappointment, there
are no words to express my happiness and relief when I opened that box and
found Honey sleeping quietly on a bed of white tissue paper in her red and
white flannel Lanz nightgown with the teddy bears on it. And I shall never
forget the look of relief and love on my daughter Daisy's face when a few
minutes later I nonchalantly tiptoed past the open door of her classroom with
Honey riding high on my shoulders.
This December, give a child the gift of a teddy bear, a toy they will love
and remember forever.  
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Good Yule, Ramadan, Winter
Solstice, Saturnalia or whatever holiday you and your loved ones celebrate at
this time of the year.  

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