Grandma and Grandpa were moving from the farmhouse to the little house up the road. I was a happy, eager-to-please four-year old. Looking back, I know my helping was likely more of a hindrance than any form of assistance.
However, in my preschooler glory, I didn’t realize that and I was eager to pack up boxes of treasures that had been stored in my grandparents’ attic. I can still picture the dusty boxes. It was like a treasure hunt. I never knew if I’d reach in and find some boring legal documents or something that would cause me to stop with wonder.
After several hours of being told, “Go help Grandma in the kitchen,” or a dirty look from my brother as he tripped over me for the umpteenth time, I finally found the perfect place to be helpful and have some fun too. I dug through boxes of old toys. There were trucks that my father likely played with, along with dolls for my aunt.
My eyes lit up when I found a teddy bear. He wasn’t especially soft, but he looked at me with his glass eyes and I was in love. I timidly approached my grandfather; I knew the bear and I belonged together. My grandfather wasn’t the sit-on-the-front-porch-and crawl–into-my-lap type of grandfather. He was a big, tall, scary dude.
I looked up at him with my little blue eyes dancing, “Grandpa, are you gonna get rid of this bear?” He was so tall I had to bend my neck to an almost ninety degree angle. I let my lower lip slip out. This required just the right amount of squeak in my voice and that lower lip couldn’t protrude too far. I had to get this down just right or I knew I’d have no chance acquiring this treasure.
Grandpa put his hands on his hips, narrowed his eyes, and looked down his nose at me. “That used to be my bear when I was little. Do you have anything you’re willing to trade for it?”
I shook the words out of my little redhead. That wasn’t right; he’d been giving stuff away all day. I wasn’t supposed to have to barter for it; after all I was his granddaughter. A quick glance at the bear and I knew I had to have it. I sighed and scratched my head; I tried batting my eyelashes one more time. “Please, Grandpa, I’ll give it a good home.”
“Nope, that bear is too special to give away, you run across the road and check your toy-box and see if you have something to trade for it.”
Quick as a wink, my little four-year old legs pumped up and down; I flew across the road, tore into the house, and screeched to a halt in front of my bed. There on my pillow was my panda. I picked it up and hugged it. It was soft and squishy, not rough and prickly like the other bear. Still, the treasured bear had jointed legs and arms. Its head could move side to side. My panda bear had jelly stains on it and the white part was really gray. I loved my panda, but I knew I had to trade it for the “new” bear.
So once again, my little legs chugged across the road. The panda’s head went thump, thump on the steps as I climbed back into the attic.
My grandfather’s mouth dropped down and his eyebrows shot up. I hugged and kissed my panda goodbye, then slowly handed it to Grandpa. Little tears plopped down my face. I shuffled from one foot to the other.
Gruffly, Grandpa shoved the new bear into my arms. “Here, take them, go home, and leave me alone before I change my mind and keep them both.”
I turned on the spot, clutching both bears in my arms and sprinted home. Today, some forty years later, I no longer have my beloved panda, but Grandpa’s Teddy Roosevelt bear sits in a place of honor.
I learned quite a bit that day, like when a four-year old offers to help; she usually just gets in the way. I also learned that I have great bargaining skills. I still enjoy haggling over the price of anything. But most of all, I learned that even tough, scary dudes can’t help but resist the charms of cute little redheads. My grandpa did love me; he just had a hard time showing it.
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