Once upon a time there was a little girl named Lauren. Her bed was shared with so many stuffed animals that there was hardly enough room for her to sleep at all. But of all the stuffed animals on her bed, none was as much loved as Oatmeal Bear. At night when her mother tucked her into bed, one of Lauren’s favorite books was a story about a little stuffed rabbit that had been accidentally left on an airplane by his young owner. Over the following months, the little stuffed rabbit visited many places and sent postcards home to his owner with pictures of himself in front of the world’s most famous landmarks. Eventually, the little stuffed rabbit made his way home and was reunited with his owner. Lauren decided then that when she became the world traveler whom she was sure she would one day become, that she would take Oatmeal Bear with her wherever she went.
There was only one thing that Lauren worried about and that was mildew. Her mother had told her a story about a stuffed bear that she had had herself when she was little. The stuffed bear was called Cocoa Marsh after the well known chocolate syrup of the 1960’s. One day when her mother was a child, she had left her bear outside in the backyard and when she retrieved him, he had become mildew. When this was discovered by her own mother, Cocoa Marsh was thrown into the garbage. Lauren’s mother told her that she still remembered the following morning and hearing the garbage truck pick up the garbage. She had sat in her bed, helpless, as Cocoa Marsh was tossed into the truck and lost forever.
Over the years, Oatmeal Bear has been on family vacations with Lauren from the Caribbean to the Grand Tetons, from Maine to Key West, and from Texas to Virginia Beach. When Lauren went on high school trips to France and Spain, and later to Costa Rica, Oatmeal Bear went with her. When it was time for Lauren to go away to college, Oatmeal Bear was tucked into her backpack, he sat silently while he peeking out and watched through the car window as the scenery flew by on the long eight hour drive. Through four years of living in dorm rooms at college, a trip to Mexico, and, ultimately, a move to Lauren’s graduate school in New Orleans, Oatmeal Bear was her faithful companion. But last summer, when it was time for Lauren to go to the Amazon for the summer, she hesitated to bring her little bear with her for fear that he would become mildew in the rain-forest. Her mother was horrified at the thought of Oatmeal Bear being left behind and urged Lauren to find a way to take him with her. So Lauren put him in a gallon sized Ziploc plastic bag and took him with her. Upon her return, although everything in her luggage, including her suitcase, were mildew, Oatmeal Bear was fine!
Just this spring, Oatmeal Bear joined Lauren and her friend, Nikki, as they traveled on vacation to London and Paris. Oatmeal Bear even got to see Stonehenge! But today, Lauren left to return to the Amazon, this time without Oatmeal Bear. She reasoned that he had already seen the rain-forest and she didn’t want to take the chance of him ending up like Cocoa Marsh.
So he is now sitting on her bed alone, worrying and hoping that she will be all right without him. Every now and then, he seems to heave a small sigh as he glances toward the window, waiting for his girl to come back home. (Photo of Oatmeal Bear at Stonehenge courtesy of: laurendodaro.weebly.com)
http://www.theresadodaro.com Author of The Tin Box Trilogy