No! No! No! It can’t be! But it is!
The largest pocket of my backpack is come unzipped! It’s empty! Gone is my friend of 8-1/2 years. Berr Symon. Who only 10 minutes and 1-1/2 blocks ago’s snug as a bug in the zippered pocket.
Before I’ve ordered I race outta the women’s restroom at the ice cream store, announcing “I’ll be back! I’ve lost something!” I sail out the glass door, cut a line through a family entering.
I run run run! past stores. Past people. Oh the people! Many people! Descending in droves on the Courthouse Square for the town’s Idol weekly summer event.
My heavy-ish backpack bounces on my back. My flip-flops slap the sidewalk awkwardly. I round the corner. Sprint a long block lined with shops, restaurants and bars. My eyes scan side to side and ahead. It can’t — it won’t! — be hard to spot a teddy bear lying on the sidewalk!
Symon. Where are you?!
He’s nowhere! Nowhere to be seen! I beeline it to my car, weighted by backpack and flip-flops. I’m retracing the 1-1/2 blocks I’d just walked less than 10 minutes ago! Surely he couldn’t have disappeared already! Surely someone couldn’t have spotted him lying on the sidewalk, picked him up already. Claimed him as theirs already!
Yes they could’ve! Downtown’s packed with people — adults, kids, families, visitors, locals — here for Prescott Idol.
I arrive at my Subbie breathless. My last hope dashed. The hope that Berr Symon had slipped outta my backpack and landed between two cars.
Forget the ice cream! And the cash for it! I unload the backpack into the car. U-turn in my panicked dash. Remove the flip-flops. Grasp ’em in one hand.
And for the 3rd time in less than 15 minutes, sprint at full speed back up the 1-1/2 blocks. Retracing the very same for the 3rd time in less than 15 minutes! Eyes sweep side to side. Symon! Where are you?
My heart’s cracking open. Caving in. Crying, I lock it down. In a zillion places we’ve been, I’ve never once lost him, dropped or left him anywhere!
Yet he’s nowhere! Nowhere to be seen on the sidewalks! Oh my god! What if a kid really did pick him up?! I’ll search high and low! I’ll go into every bar, restaurant, store asking if anyone turned in a teddy bear! Forget the ice cream! The live music! Finding Symon is my mission!
I round the corner near the ice cream store. The end of the trail. He fell out somewhere between my car and Frannie’s. It’s my last hope — far as a teddy bear lying on the sidewalk.
I’m about to burst through the door. Ask the Frannie’s staff: Did anyone turn in a teddy bear?! I’m panicking. My heart’s breaking. Really breaking. Symon, he’s been with me for 8-1/2 years. A rescue from the Goodwill.
There are stories. We have stories. He’s been with me across thousands and thousands of miles. Through stories never told that should be told. Or not. He’s been my best friend. My ONLY friend. He’s real. More real than places I’ve been or people I’ve met. Symon’s steadfast. I don’t treat him as I should. As he wants. Meaning I don’t talk to him like I should and like he likes. Fucking isolation. Depression. Darkest of dark times. I’ve always been like that. The more things hurt, the more I stop talking.
Suddenly in front of the ice cream store, I’m stopped dead in my tracks. I mean full-tilt stop on a dime!
There, in the middle of a black metal mesh chair 2,000 times too big for him sits Symon! Serenely. Dignified. Handsomely. His driving scarf (a ribbon) of tangerine with orange and red and green polka-dots loosely around his neck, reminding how he would love to drive if he could!
Elation! Relief! Burst through my being! “There he is!” I exclaim. Maybe. Or “Oh my god!” I don’t remember. I just remember the joy! and relief! Of finding Berr Symon! Of finding a little stuffed bear sitting so dignified in the middle of an adult black metal-mesh patio chair!
I grab him fast. Hold him faster to my heart! Hugging him tight. Everything in the world’s suddenly righted in that one moment.
Oh my god, I can’t believe he’s here! Something like that. At a table a young lady, 27-ish, who’s witnessing the reunion speaks up.
“A lady found him on the sidewalk. Said she’d thought she’d seen him in someone’s backpack …”
“Oh my god! I can’t believe it! Do you know what she looks like? What she’s wearing?” I want to find her! Thank her!
“She was an older lady. With a group. I don’t remember what she’s wearing.”
I’m elated in gratitude. An honest person. An honest lady. I’m stunned! Even though I’m as honest as the day is long, never have and never would take an item of value — sentimental or monetary — I find, indeed go to extreme lengths to return a lost item to its owner, I don’t expect people to do likewise. I don’t expect people to be good. Or kind. Or thoughtful.
I leave the young gal. Hasten down the street in hope that I might somehow find a lady with a group. But it’s a lost cause. Downtown’s filled with people. She’d set Symon on the chair like 15 minutes ago. She could be anywhere …
I cuddle Berr Symon, almost crush him, talking to him, kissing his furry. Confidential stuff between a girl and her bear.
I know what I must do. I can’t personally thank the woman who in a simple kind act spared me enormous grief.
Random acts of kindness. I’m very big on this anyhow. Yet in the coming days, weeks, month or more, I’ll look for those opportunities to pay forward the goodness of that stranger. And when I commit these random acts of kindness — may be buying a police officer or senior a cup of coffee at a cafe, covering someone’s shortage of cash at a supermarket, such needs take many forms! — I’ll do so with that lady — the Bear Rescuer — in mind.
This tail, err, tale, my friends, is one with a happy ending. Loss, grief, a hole in the heart (mine), a place in my life, my car, my bed, my home emptied of Berr Symon … it’s more than I would ask of myself or would want to bear. It’s the small action of one person who changed the course of weeping to joy.
Actions matter. The smallest sometimes matter the most. Be kind to another. Be honest. Be good.
For you never know how even that littlest or seemingly most innocuous action can change another’s day, month or life for the better.
I now give you Berr Symon. A rescue from the Tacoma, WA Goodwill in 2008. Freshly laundered just today in celebration. In one of his seasonal driving scarves for rest assured he WOULD drive if he could.
And to that anonymous Bear Rescuer: Bless you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Enormous gratitude to you. I shall be paying it forward.