We all have familial roots, that particular human chain to which we belong that is central to our individual identity. Some of us care about our origins more deeply than others. I happen to harbor a tenacious sentiment for my familial roots. But my roots have traveled a long way over the years, at times seeming very elusive to me.
My Mom immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1953 at the ripe age of 19, leaving behind her parents and 7 brothers and sisters. Mom boarded the Rijndam for a 10-day boat ride heading for Halifax. She spent nine of those days suffering from seasickness. Staying above board in the fresh air seemed to alleviate the symptoms somewhat, but not get rid of them altogether. I am sure that Mom was glad to land in Halifax and board the train to Toronto. The final leg of her journey was another train ride to Burlington where Mom joined her brother and his wife.
That brother and sister-in-law of my mother’s were our only relatives here in Canada for many years. We would have intermittent visits from other relatives, and for me, this was always a big deal. I loved meeting family, even if there was a language barrier. As a result of these visits, I did learn some Dutch.
This teddy bear is a very sentimental treasure from my past. My maternal grandmother gave it to me on one of those intermittent visits, when I was about a year old. From stories I have heard, she is the one who taught me to walk when she was in Canada, that summer in the 1960’s This was also the last visit my maternal grandparents made to Canada.
I didn’t have grandparents around to spoil me, or to pass on the wisdom only grandparents have gleaned. I didn’t have a Grandma to run to for a comforting hug when life got tough, but I did have the teddy bear she gave me to hold close and offer the comfort she could not.
I could not talk to my grandparents (even on the telephone, since there was the language barrier) but I could pour my soul out to the teddy bear. This would somehow provide a sense of clarity and soothe my troubled spirit.
I never did get to meet my grandparents that I remember, but this teddy bear is the embodiment of their influence in my life. Via this teddy bear, they not only attended my grade one talent show, but also actually had a starring role in it! They have had a “teddy’s eye view” of the many other stages of my life.
Many people have memories of their grandparents to hold onto. I have this teddy bear as a tangible manifestation of my grandparents.
I wonder if my grandmother realized the monumental significance this teddy bear would hold to the granddaughter she bought it for.
What is your most prized gift and why?