Bear Necessities

Mary By Any Other Name

Deb’s full name is Mary Deborah McConnell. She goes by Deb because that’s what they do in my wife’s family. When a dozen women in a family are named Mary, it only makes sense to refer to each one by her middle name. I know Deb’s sisters by their middle names: Katie, Peggy, Ashley. I know my mother-in-law by her middle name, Betsy. And I know the aunts and female cousins by their middle names.

The only person in the family called Mary is Deb’s daughter, my stepdaughter Mary Richards. (In the interest of full disclosure, I also refer to my first wife as Mary Jo. When Deb and I were on our way to the courthouse on our wedding day, we ran into my ex-wife outside the front doors of the St. Louis County Courthouse. I said, “Hey, Mary Jo. This is Deb. Deb, this is Mary Jo. Hey, Mary Jo, Deb and I are getting married in—” I looked at my watch. “—twenty minutes. So we’ve gotta run. Good seeing you.”)

Deb’s daughter Mary loves spending time with Joy. Mary holds the baby at every opportunity. She plays music on her iPhone for Joy and sings along. She kisses Joy on her mostly bald head, leaving behind the soothing scent of cherry ChapStick.

Andi also loves holding Joy, but usually Mary is the first one tiptoeing into our room in the morning to kiss her, hold her, and change her diaper. Mary doesn’t go to bed without saying goodnight to Joy, kissing her on the head, and making sure Joy has a stuffed bear nearby.

Mary believes that finding the perfect bear for Joy is super important. Joy has received stuffed bears from friends and relatives. We have a bear from Katie and Dave that was made with love (and input from Mary and Andi) at Build-A-Bear. We have a gorgeous bear that Chip and Kathleen had made from a shirt that had belonged to Deb’s dad (Deb’s dad was lovingly known as Dedushka, and the stuffed bear is known as Dooshie Bear). Mary has assessed each bear for color, texture, huggability, et cetera. Mary knows about bears. Her favorite stuffed animal is Mr. Bear, and he is the standard against which all bears will be judged.

Joy’s bears
Joy and Mr. Bear.

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