Unconditional Love

Still Life

Northport, Alabama

This photograph of me and my mother was taken somewhere around 1975 or 1976 when I was two or three. The most important thing in my life at that time, besides my mother, was my teddy bear, given to me by my grandparents on the day I was born.

When I was old enough, I named him Paddy, not after Paddington Bear as most people assume, but after the nursery rhyme, “Pat-a-Cake, Pat-A-Cake,” which was my favorite. Paddy Bear went everywhere with me. At night, I would hold him until I fell asleep, whispering all my thoughts and fears, childhood hopes and dreams. If he could talk, he could tell enough stories to incriminate me — or break your heart.

Like all things that are truly loved, he is real to me, as real as any family member. His ragged, threadbare fur has absorbed gallons of tears. His tattered ears have kept a million secrets. His plastic eyes have seen more than I will ever remember. I could never give him up. He is as much a part of me as my own soul.

I stopped sleeping with him when I left home, but he still sits on the headboard of my bed, within hand’s reach as I sleep. And sometimes, in the middle of the night, when I am half-conscious and my guard is down, I find myself reaching out as I did so often, caressing a worn paw, as much out of habit as anything. And just like when I was a child, he is always there.

Unconditional love. It’s good stuff.

Music of the day: Fallen by Sarah McLachlan

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