Son bestows priceless gift to ‘mother bear’

By Janice O. McIntosh

I was busy sorting through my October bills when I glanced up at my wall calendar. Today was October 3, and I had planned on writing a piece for the Nostalgia contest. Quickly, I shoved the bills aside and grabbed up my notebook. It was probably too late to complete a story, but I wanted to at least try.

I got my pen and began to write furiously about my most “nostalgic gift.”

Gift of a Joyful Relationship

Our son, Andrew, was only three when I took him to his first Christmas bazaar. His eyes lit up when we walked into the Episcopal church. There were many tables covered with all kinds of gifts from many foreign countries. The church had a tradition of faculty members at the University of Missouri bringing fun and unusual gifts back to the church from the countries where they had lived.

What a variety. There were gifts galore from China, Japan, India, England, Ireland and several Scandinavian countries. One of the most popular tables had gifts from the Holy Land. Andrew held my hand tightly as we made our way from table to table. I could tell he was getting tired, so I suggested we take a break for some hot chocolate and our choice of beautifully baked Christmas cookies. He was soon eager to go back to his “favorite” tables.

At a Scandinavian booth, we bought two miniature carved Vikings. While at the Irish table, he chose a little elf on a wooden stump for his dad. At the English table, we got a pretty wooden train for our family. I got a few ornaments for our Christmas tree and a set of the three wise men riding camels; they had been carved in Bethlehem. We were finished and we left, happy as larks.

Gift of Shared Memories

That was 1967. During the next three years, we returned to this wonderful bazaar each year, even

Portobello Market

Scene of activity during a Portobello Road Market in London. (Photo courtesy http://www.whatsoninlondon.co.uk)

after Andy started school. We attended after school or in the evening hours.

Unfortunately, in the fourth year, they cancelled the bazaar. This was due to the duty on items increasing so much that people no longer were bringing many things back. We were both disappointed, but we found other bazaars to attend.

Our enjoyment of Christmas bazaars gradually turned into antique stores, flea markets and garage sales. After Andrew left home, he lived in Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado. When I went to visit him, he always had a list of interesting flea markets and antique stores. There was a great flea market in Austin that was only held once a month. I tried to schedule my visits to see him on the same day as the flea markets. Both cities had interesting antique shops to look through as well. It was a great hobby we shared together. We always found something unusual at a great price.

Gift of Appreciation for Antiques

One of the highlights of our shopping was when Andrew, and my youngest daughter, Jean, and I took a trip to England. We were lucky enough to go to the famous outdoor Portobello antique mall in London There we bought a lovely Norwegian bowl.

Somewhere along the way, Andrew started calling me “Mother Bear” and I’d called him “Son Bear.” We shared those nicknames for many years.

We both enjoyed looking for old things for over 44 years.

Then tragedy intervened! Andrew had planned to join two friends at the 2012 Olympics in London. He’d happily laid plans for this trip for 18 months.

The big day for his trip arrived, and we sent emails back and forth when he left for Iceland and then onto London to meet his friends.

Changed Forever

He arrived at Heathrow Airport in London with great anticipation of the fun days ahead. That evening around 6 p.m., I got a call from his friend, Chrissie, who lived in London. She said, “I have terrible news about Andrew.” (I couldn’t imagine terrible news, as he had been in great spirits the day before.)

“My goodness, what’s happened?” I asked.

Chrissie replied, “He collapsed at the airport. They rushed him to the hospital, but he died just five hours later from a massive heart attack. I have been trying to reach you for the past four hours.”

My world crumbled and tears welled up in my eyes!

“I’ll call you later, Chrissie,” I said. “I must call and tell the family.”

It was a devastating two weeks, working with the American embassy to get Andrew home.

Gift for the Ages

A horrible nightmare for us all can only begin to describe our shock and pain. Our extended family and many friends surrounded us with love and support. But Julie and Jean and I knew our world was shattered beyond repair.

The first Christmas without Andrew was dreadful. Jean handed me the last gift. I opened it, and there was a mother bear and a little bear sculpture made of soapstone. Julie had found it while we were cleaning out Andy’s apartment, and it was obviously intended for my Christmas gift that year. No more words are needed to tell you that this little bear sculpture will always be my favorite nostalgic gift, and perhaps my broken world can now begin to heal.

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