I had the piece of Tracey in my bag during the last month, but I was waiting to publish it while I was finishing my recent work for Magicis Images in order to read and enjoy this lovely story without hurries. Here you can read this very interesting and original way to tell about the past, using the imagination at the same time. thank your Tracey for that!
"A Bear’s Life"
by Tracey Chan.
Brown bears are at the top of the food chain and eat almost anything. I’ve owned one for nearly 30 years. This is rather good since its average life span in the wild is a quarter century. Okay so he’s not a real one, but I don’t think I’d be able to manage anything bigger. Take that nature!
I can’t remember if I was five or six when he came into my life, but it was after Christmas, so I would have already had a birthday. I was at my grandmother’s house and I hated going there. I hated the smell, the stark uncomfortable furniture, and having to kiss my grandmother hello and goodbye out of formality. At least there were the leftover Christmas presents to open. I remember that my new friend arrived wrapped in tissue, in a white shoebox adorned with a red rose. He was a gift from a family friend, who I have never met, but I always remember her name.
My friend came with a name - Higgins. I have no recollection of the story that accompanied him on his journey, but at that time it wasn’t very interesting to me. Higgins was such an odd, old man’s name, but that was alright since I probably could say it. His fur was very dark, it looked black at first, but held up in the sun, it was brown - just like my hair! We were kindred little things from the start. I was an only child. He was pot-bellied, stern and not cute and fluffy like my other toys, but resembling a real bear. Potential? The lovely box remained his bed until it disintegrated.
As we got comfortable in our relationship, my loving became less than tender, but children can be rough and naive about these things. I don’t know why I did it and I never liked destroying my possessions, but I was horrid to my bear. I used to lay on my parents’ bed (never mine), throw my feet up on the wall and throw him against it. I liked hearing the ‘tock, tock’ of his plastic nose against those wooden paneled walls. I remember distinctly my mother asking me, “Why are you doing that to Higgins?”, I just giggled and threw him once more at the wall. Ouch. The poor thing developed an even more wrinkly snout which made him look even angrier and disgruntled. I didn’t care. I’m only now a bit guilty about his nose; once velvety but worn three layers down. It built his character, his simple grace and he was my grumpy bear. If he was a real pet, he would have bitten my arm off or scurried under the bed to hide, but he endured. What a trooper.
One of his most memorable adventures is a trip to Grenada, an island that has now become one of my favourite places incidentally. In the early 80’s, the airport security was not as strict as it is now, and I’m not sure there were even scanners. His little pot belly was squeezed and prodded as we checked in. I always poked his belly, but that was my right alone. How dare this horrible stranger touch my bear! I was aghast. Unimpressed as I was, I had to let the officers have their way.
Higgins spent a possibly uneventful vacation because he was under careful protection from my cousins’ rough play. See? I was a good momma. On the evening we left the island however, he almost got abandoned. I was in the car, packed up, ready to go, and realised there was no bear. Holy crap! The world stopped - everything had to stop. I don’t think I had a tantrum since I was not the sort of child to do this, but my mother knew he had to be retrieved. Just like my safety blanket, he was an important part of her sanity. Luckily we were still outside the house, so my uncle had to go back and get him from the house. Crisis averted. Mother relieved.
My bear and I have had a lifetime together even though he has been abused, dressed like a girl bear, relieved of snuggle privileges and replaced temporarily with new fuzzy friends. He always seemed to forgive me and still offered a soft paw of comfort at the times when I was sick or otherwise needing a friendly, albeit grumpy face. As I packed my other toys away years ago, he remained among the elite members of the unboxed plush clan. A place will always be reserved in my home and in my heart. Higgins the bear is currently in hibernation and is kept at the top of the fluffy food chain with various minions to chew on.
© Text and Images by Tracey Chan
About the author
Tracey Chan is a Trinidadian interdisciplinary artist and writer. Clever and witty, her writing is personal and explorative. She likes interviewing creative people about their lives and having conversations that are meant to be a collaborative exchange. She has been published in ARC Magazine and Callaloo Caribbean. Most recently she was a contributor to a collaborative e-book, The Inspired Way. Tracey is interested in children’s books, illustration and art based on journalistic and asemic writing. She worked in design, print and media industries before focusing on a full time career that includes fine art, freelance graphic design, and art event management. Tracey currently lives and works in Trinidad & Tobago.