Like many well-off Canadian children of my generation, I had a number of woolly animals and dolls sitting on my bed. There was the anthropomorphic elephant knitted by my mother, a small walrus, a multi-ethnic cloth doll (there was an alternative face on the reverse side of the skirts), a Holly Hobby, a (relative to the other toys) large blue whale and, of course, my favourite, Bear.
Bear started his career named Bear, then Ted, and then Edward Bear (after Winnie the Pooh), and finally Edward Sebastian Bear after I watched as much of Brideshead Revisited as my parents let me get away with. I got a crush on bottle-blond Anthony Andrews; goodness knows why.
I started getting crushes on boys from an early age so and for such particularly stupid reasons as having long, dark eyelashes or blond hair. These crushes were sometimes of short and sometimes of long duration, but through them all, I had my faithful Ted. Edward Sebastian turned up before I was troubled by crushes on anyone; he is a link to the sunny innocence of infancy.
Not that I was entirely faithful to the bear. I didn't always take him with me on my travels, in part because he is an inconvenient size and shape to pack. For some reason he got left behind when I got married and moved to Scotland. He whiled away his time with my nephew Pirate, who was rather fond of him, before I retrieved him and carried him across the sea.
The poor old thing has had to be laundered several times in his existence, thanks to the measles and various bouts of the flu. If he was ever soft, fluffy and golden, he is now rough and sand-coloured. Has he aged worse than me? Yes, he has developed a small hole from which stuffing could fall out, and so far I am fine in that department, thank God.
His expression is so worrying, I had to think seriously about whether or not he qualifies as an Object of Happiness. But as a reminder of home and of Christmas Morning 197-, he must definitely is.
In honour of my Great-Uncle Art, I have to tell the story of Beloved Belindy again. After all, I may be the youngest person alive to remember there ever was an Uncle Art.
Were he alive today, Uncle Art would probably be 116, and he was plenty old back when he gave me my little toy broom. This broom took the shape of a handle attached to an anthropomorphic black mop. The black mop looked a lot like Beloved Belindy in a truly ancient Raggedy-Ann-and-Andy book I possessed, so that's what I named it at once.
The black lady-mop was wearing what I many years later discovered was called "a mammy rag", and my parents were clearly horrified by the racist implications of my sweeping the floor with a black lady wearing a mammy rag. (As young as I was, I remember the atmosphere of deep embarrassment.) Thus, Beloved Belindy was swiftly removed from my possession.
For decades I thought she must be at the back of some shelf, but in recent years the terrible suspicion has been growing that my parents simply chucked her out. The sad irony is that I was really attached to Beloved Belindy, just as generations of innocent British children must have loved their golly dolls. I hasten to add that I would not give a golly to a contemporary British child, and so I begrudgingly have to admit that my parents were probably right to take away B.B. Come to think of it, my Raggedy-Ann-and-Andy book similarly disappeared.