This is a revised version of the story I posted in January 2022.
It was the first Christmas after losing my son, and I was struggling to find joy in anything, especially the holidays. I had not put up my tree and there was no trace of anything festive.
My daughter saw a post on a social media Mom’s page, asking if anyone had experience in repairing memory bears. Not for the first time, my daughter volunteered me. I am beyond blessed and sometimes frustrated that she seems to believe I can fix or make anything when it comes to sewing.
I got the poster’s information, and we chatted a bit by text. Her grown son was off to college and was struggling with being away from home and in his new environment. The only thing he asked for that Christmas was for his childhood bears, “Bear” and “Other Bear”, to be repaired.
When the woman brought the bears to me, all I could do was bite my lip and think to myself, this would require a miracle.
She handed me two ragged, brown, near faceless bundles and explained to me how she held one of them while she was in labor with her son and that her son loved the bear so much; they had to find another one because the first one was showing wear.
She asked how much it would cost to repair the bears, and I told her I wasn’t sure I could fix them and that there would be no charge. I've always felt that when you are blessed with a skill or gift, you should pay it forward as much as possible and this was the perfect opportunity.
I researched the well-loved bears to see how they looked in their less loved days and found, to my shock, that they were originally white. Picking one up, I inspected it closer, wondering what I had gotten myself into and doubting if I could return them to their actual youth.
Doing what I always do when in doubt- I jumped in and started testing ideas.
I made a bath of warm soapy water with an oxygen powder and let the little guys just hang out and swim for a while in my kitchen sink. That hardly made any difference, so I sprayed them with a different oxygen based cleaner and a miracle occurred. I rinsed them well and wrapped them in towels to squeeze the water out, then let them dry.
I used a wire dog brush and gently brushed them out. I was shocked to find that they still had fur; at least a little. I had to be careful, because the fabric was pretty fragile. Then, I fattened them up with fluff, stitching the many holes and sewed their heads back on.
I used oil-based paint pens to retore their eyes, being careful to add that special white dot for the gleam. It was the nose, though, that brought the bears to life and gave them back their personalities.
During the process, I sent a photo to my daughter and the difference was so stark that she asked if I had changed out the fabric on them.
The last time I saw the bears, they were neatly tucked in a box awaiting pickup. I thought nothing more about them until Christmas eve when I got an emotional video of the young man opening his gift and his sweet and sentimental reaction at the realization it was Bear and Other Bear and in a cracked voice, he said to his mother taking the video, "thank you, Mom."
… and just like that – the joy and spirit of Christmas found me once more.