Bear was gifted to me nearly 4 years before my daughter entered into the world. He sat on the bed during most of this time, largely untouched. When my daughter was still quite small, about 7 months or so, I offered him to her as a comfort object.
At the time they became acquainted, he was still a vibrant tan shade with a velvety shag fur and wore a bright red bow. He was life-size at that point. I recall, as if it were yesterday, my child lifting him up with both hands to position him against her body in a hug.
They became fast friends. They took pictures together on their many adventures. While he wasn’t on the first flight she took, he accompanied her on each travel adventure to follow. They napped together by day and slept entwined at night. He often joined her for meals (eventually adorned in his very own bib). Bear came to playgrounds, doctors appointments, local eateries, friends homes, and along on nearly every errand that our Izzie joined us for.
Bear started to lose the velvet texture to his fur. His left eye got a cataract-like scuff after a hard press into my friend’s living room wall. His bow became crumpled and a darker shade of red from the caked in grime of daily living. He was no longer the bright color of clean sand. But still she adored him above all other toys that preceded him and those that came to follow.
Getting Bear out of Izzie’s grip is challenging, even 17 months after their courtship began. He’s had some quick extractions from her arms during nap time in effort to brighten him up and get some germs off. It’s rare that he’ll make it through a full air dry on the clothes line before it’s discovered that he’s gone.
The last go around, I really debated on my cleaning options for him. He’s precious cargo (obviously), and taking the wrong action could alter the shape, fluff, and overall appearance of our 6th family member (after the cats, of course). I’d generally used a damp washcloth with diluted Dr. Bronners baby soap for the freshen ups in the past, which worked okay but didn’t make him sparkling clean. I read through blog upon blog trying to figure out if he could safely be machine washed, as his tag that may have contained cleaning instructions had long since warn away. I was close–so close as in pillow case in hand and load of towels ready to go–to putting him in the washing machine, but just couldn’t. Because What If? What if there were those beads in his feet and butt like that one article said, which cannot be submerged in water? What if his head lost its shape? What if an eye or limb fell off? What if she just KNEW because he smelled different and was heartbroken at the change?
So, I went conservative.
During naptime, I extracted Bear from my child’s clutches and tackled the situation at the kitchen sink with organic soap, a washcloth, and a basin of water. I carefully surface washed his entire body, being careful not to oversaturate any given body part. It was a gloomy and cool day, so I decided to take a chance on tumbling Bear in the dryer on low heat, enclosed in the safety of a pillowcase.
Izzie woke from her nap about 15 minutes in. Bear’s absence was the first thing she noticed. I explained that he had a bath and was drying off. She was having none of it, so there was no way I was disclosing that he was in the dryer in the restraint of a cloth sack. At my daughter’s strong urging, I went to retrieve Bear so that we could finish drying him together.
I grabbed the blow dryer from the cabinet and we took turns aiming the low heat toward our dear friend, occasionally stopping to fluff his fur with a soft brush.
Involving my daughter in the care of her most beloved friend helped to quell her fears for his safety when the need for clean is present. This was a much needed milestone of sorts, because it’s going to happen again and again, for as long as he’s going everywhere that she goes, day in and out. Which he will most definitely continue to do.