Teddies on the Freeway

While I was in L.A. (Yeah, yeah, it’s another one of THOSE posts: just stick it out though and I’ll start talking about something NOT connected to my holiday, I promise) we were driving along the freeway one day, when the traffic suddenly slowed because of a truck’s cargo, which had apparently spilled onto the road.

As we drew closer to the obstruction,I glanced out of the window to see what, exactly, it was that was littering the highway and forcing the traffic to go from the thrilling speed of 15mph, down to about 5mph.

It was teddy bears.

Lots of them. Hundreds, maybe. They were little, tiny, multicoloured teddy bears, they were all over the freeway, being run over by the cars and, actually, their small stature and brightly coloured fur reminded me a lot of my own Pinky:

who you will, of course, all remember from this post, because you have obsessively read through my archives and are totally up to date on the subject of Soft Toys I Have Known. In which case, you are obviously one of my parents: hi, folks!

(Oh, God, see, I know you’re not actually going to click that link, so now I feel like I have to explain why I, a grown-adult, feel the need to own a small pink rabbit. IT’S A STRESS TOY, OK? Because I’m scared of flying, I take it on flights with me, and any time the plane is taking off, or landing, or going through turbulence, or just flying along, minding its own business, I squeeze Pinky tightly in my hand, and it makes me feel calmer. Or at least, it used to: these days I tend to spend the duration of the flight freaking out and going, “OMG WHERE IS PINKY I HAVE LOST PINKY!” and that’s sometimes even more stressful than the flights were without him. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I had to stop writing this and get up to go and check that Pinky was safely stowed in the drawer I left him in when we got back from California. Stress bustin’: UR doin it rong!)

The teddy bears, as I said, were scattered across several lanes of traffic, being run over by cars and trucks and honestly, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. (I know, sheltered life, huh?) I just can’t stand to see a stuffed animal in distress. In fact, my parents still have a large white bear my mum and I once found in a puddle when we were walking Chico one day, and which I insisted on bringing home and washing. And then we all stood in a circle around it going, “Well, what will we do with it? I dunno, what do YOU think we should do with it?” And no one could think of anything we could do with a large white bear*, so it ended up in my parents’ attic, and it remains there to this day. I like to think it’s happier as an Attic Bear than it would be as a Puddle Bear. It would probably be happier still if I gave it to a charity shop and some kid got it and loved it. I would do that, but how would I know it wouldn’t end up in the wrong hands, like, a bear farm or something? HOW WOULD I KNOW?

(*It was a stuffed bear, obviously. If I’d found a REAL bear in a puddle, I probably wouldn’t have brought it home and put it in the washing machine, but you never know.)

Anwyay. Teddies. On the freeway.

Those teddies on the freeway, they tugged at my heartstrings. So I yelled at my dad to stop the car and, of course, he yelled back that I was an idiot, and that he wasn’t going to pull over so I could run around an eight lane highway, picking up stuffed bears. We drove on. We left those teddies far behind, but I couldn’t get them out of my mind.

But things were to get worse, teddy-wise.

The next day, we visited Santa Monica, and there, on the roof of a building next to the pier, I saw this:

Yes, it’s one of L.A.’s army of homeless bears: those poor, forgotten toys who have been sent out into the world to fend for themselves.

Some just can’t take the pressure:

Others turn to drink:

(Yes, that’s Spongebob. He went to Hollywood to find fame: instead he just found the bottom of a bottle. It’s a sad scene, and one that’s repeated all over the city, if you just know where to look.)

Welcome to the seedy underbelly of L.A., folks: the part the tourists don’t get to see.

When we left L.A., I thought I’d left this teddy underworld far behind me. I was wrong, though, because when I was out running last week, what should I stumble upon, just lying on the footpath?

A lost lion. Now THERE’S something you don’t see every day, huh?

“At last!” I thought. “At last I have the opportunity to do something good for the lost teddies of the world: the teddies on the freeway. For I will take this lost lion home with me, and I will give him to Rubin, and he will be loved. Well, he will be chewed, and thrown around a bit, but it’ll be almost the same as being loved!”

So I picked up the little lion, and I ran on, his little yellow and blue legs dangling from my hand. I must’ve looked like an absolute idiot, out jogging with a stuffed animal in my hand. In fact, I must’ve looked even stupider than I look sitting on an aircraft with a stuffed animal in my hand, now I come to think of it. But I ran on, determined to save at least one of the lost teddies of the world, and every time I passed someone I gave them a look that was supposed to signifiy, “Oh, hai! I see you’re looking at the stuffed lion in my hand! Why, I found it abandoned on the footpath back yonder, and I am taking it home to my dog! Because THAT’S not weird!”

I think people knew what I meant. Either that or they just thought I was demented.

As I ran, though, I started to worry. This lion was clean, and by the way he’d been sitting on the path, I figured he’d been dropped, rather than abandoned. What if he was some child’s cherished toy? What if that child came back looking for him, and he was gone: handed over to Rubin, to be treated with the disrespect Rubin reserves for all members of the stuffed toy fraternity? WHAT IF?

I was worried. And I HAD been worried about the lion, but now I was worried about the nameless child who loved the lion. (The title of my first book: “People Who Love Lions Too Much”.) How would I feel, I asked myself, if it was Ted who had been lost?

Or, er, ET?

I would be heartbroken. Inconsolable.

So I turned around, and I ran all the way back to where I’d found the lion. And now I had a new dilemma. I had to leave him somewhere he would be safe: somewhere his true owner would be able to find him, but random passers-by wouldn’t notice him and take him. Er, like I had, I mean.

In the end, I found him a safe place in the undergrowth. Next to a can of beer, actually. And I turned around, and I ran home, and I left that little lion behind.

That night it rained.

In fact, it poured. There was even thunder.

There was more thunder, and more rain, the next day too. And the next night.

“The little lion will be out in the elements,” I fretted to Terry, as we were on our way home from my parents’ house, where we’d had dinner. “It will be lying there all alone in the rain! IT’S A TRAGEDY OF SUCH EPIC PROPORTIONS I MAY NEVER GET OVER IT!”

Terry said nothing, but a few minutes later he silently pulled into a car park near my running route, and parked the car. “What are we doing here?” I asked. “It’s dark, and it’s raining. Are you mad?”

“We’re going to get the little lion, of course,” said Terry. And that’s why Terry deserves a medal. Because he went back with me, under cover of darkness, and in the pouring rain (We did have an umbrella in the car, thankfully, and it was only a very short walk. But still.) to look for the little lion.

It was gone.

I like to think the child who owned it came back for it. I like to think that child was overjoyed to find his beloved companion safe and sound, although possibly slightly drunk. I like to think I did the right  thing.

But sometimes, in the dead of the night, I worry that there’s a little stuffed lion out there somewhere, all alone…

30 Comments

  • molly says:

    Well this just made my whole day :)

    • Amber says:

      I’m so glad… I figured this would be one of those posts no one would comment on and I’d wonder why I published it, so your comment has made MY day :)

  • Nicola says:

    I love your concern over lost teddies, but I think I love Terry’s reaction to your worrying a bit more. Too cute!

  • Alison says:

    I can so identify with this. I am consumed with guilt when I see abandoned toys. When I was a child a friend of mine put loads of her teddies into a garage sale and I felt compelled to buy them all and try to help them get over the rejection. I think some of them still live in my parents’ attic. Sad but true. It’s reassuring to know I’m not alone in this, let’s face it, insanity.

    • Alison says:

      Can’t believe I just used ‘so’ in that context…

    • Amber says:

      That reminds me of the stuffed animals I bought from jumble sales as a child… I was too old to want to actually play with them by that point, but I just couldn’t leave them. Of course, now I have Rubin, I have the perfect excuse: “Oh, it’s not for me, it’s for the dog!”

  • Sandy says:

    Awwww bless ya! If you don’t look out for the teddies of the world then who will?!!!

  • Stacey says:

    This post made me laugh, it’s so sweet!

    I have tons of stuffed animals in storage and I’m moving soon and can’t take them with me. I’m worried that they won’t sell in the yard sale that I’m having, and if they don’t sell, what do I do with them? I can’t throw them out because then they’ll be left to the elements. I’ve actually already tried to donate them to charities for kids, because I hated the thought of my stuffed animals being locked in a hot miserable storage bin for 5 years, but they only want brand new toys.

    I would hate to hear of my Big Bird and Tigger, plus my other animals, ending up drunk in the gutter somewhere because I couldn’t find them a nice home.

    • Amber says:

      You sound exactly like me. A few weeks ago my parents were clearing out their attic and they brought down some boxes of stuff belonging to me for me to sort through. One of the boxes was full of stuffed toys that are almost as old as I am now: I have absolutely no use for them, of course (and nowhere even to store them all), but the thought of selling them/giving them away or throwing them out is just unbearable to me, so they all went right back into my parents’ attic!

  • Moni says:

    Amber, there is nothing wrong with harboring love for stuffed toys even when you are an adult. My whole family (well, except my dad) still owns teddies and other cuddly toys, and plays with them. And of course they all have names and their own distinct personalities. I can’t see what could possibly be wrong with that.
    I have even started creating my own teddy bears (not sewing but dressing them) a few years ago. They look like this: http://s201.photobucket.com/albums/aa184/JainaCSolo/Teddys/ (Sorry, they’re not for sale…)

    So feel hugged, you’re not alone! :D

  • ayemiy says:

    Amber, I am EXACTLY the same. I cannot abide abandonment of teddies, I can’t even cope if they’re on the floor in shops. I can’t throw them away and I still have regret-based nightmares about the one time I threw my favourite teddy at my sister. I cannot explain this irrational love I have for inanimate and stuffed objects, but know that you are NOT alone! we’re all as mental as each other :p

    • Amber says:

      Yes! I would pick them up off the floor in shops too – I think it must be because they have faces? Although, mind you, the same is true of dolls, and I just find them creepy. Hmmm…

  • hehehhehe OMG we are so weirdly similar AMber!! I would have done the same, with regards to the LA ones, probably cried my eyes out, and with the one in the park I think I would have done just what you did…and convinced my man to drive me to the spot to try to rescue it again. I think it stems from the fact that I lost a very much loved toy when i was…5 or 6 i think? We had moved from the UK to Spain, so the new country was very scary to me…and I had this bag that was a sort of dog house that you could carry…with the stuffed dog inside. I remember the exact spot I noticed the toy was no longer in the carrybag and I cried like a banshee to find it… but he had gone…probably somebody had picked it up right after it had dropped out of my hands… sad SAAAAD Jess. I still havent got over it, OBVIOUSLY :P

    • Amber says:

      Oh my goodness, I would have been exactly the same: in fact, I still WOULD be the same: that story has sent shivers down my spine!

    • Roisin says:

      This story reminds me of two sadly lost bears of my childhood. One was a bear that had a t-shirt with the Georgy Porgy rhyme on it – a horrible neighbour threw it up in a tree and then subsequently binned it :( Not long after that my wee brother (he was wee at the time, only about 7) had a little bear dressed in a karate costume, called Karate. The school bully took it off him and threw Karate in the river! I can still cry thinking about how sad Daniel (my brother) was – I used to make up stories about Karate’s new life on the riverbank to console him.

  • Leigh says:

    Wow, there’s quite a few of us who cannot bear to see a stuffed toy in distress. We should start a support group.

  • Kerry says:

    I am part of the Toy Story generation, so have always believed that toys come alive at night and when people aren’t around.

    Therefore even if the little owner of the lost lion didn’t come back for it, I am completely sure the lion would have climbed onto the window sill of a nearby house and a little girl or boy would have spotted the lion out there in the rain, brought it inside to let it dry off and loved it forever more.

    All the lost ones you saw were just journeying to their next home :-)

    • Amber says:

      Haha, I used to believe that too: in fact, I think I’m going to just continue to believe it and assume that, as you say, if someone didn’t come back for him, the little lion just got up and went home on his own!

  • Arlene says:

    There is something so sinister about abandoned cuddlies. That little lion pic is going to feature in my nightmares *shiver*

  • Zomermaantje says:

    I loved this story and I am really happy to learn that there are so many people out there who, just like me, care for those little lost stuffed toys.

  • MsVeve says:

    When I was a little girl my favorite teddy (he wasn’t a bear he was a squirel, called Pizzy) ended up in the lake. I was with my Mum & my bro and sis and I actually went in the lake after him. He was rescued and then my Mum washed him but he had quite a shock from the lake and the washing machine cause he got all wrinkly, like he aged twenty years. But still, he was my favorite until this day:)

  • Anna says:

    I’m the same way! I’m glad I’m not the only one who cares for stuffed toys. I still have a bunch sitting around in my room that I can’t bring myself to give away because what if they go to bad people or something?

    Also, Terry’s reaction to your worrying was so sweet!

  • Samantha says:

    I had a teddy when I was little called Rainbow Ted, because of his rainbow coloured belly. When I was about 15 my mum asked me if I wanted all my old teddies and I said no so off they went to our local charity for poor kids in Romania. This doesnt make me happy or feel like I’ve done good because all I can think of is my poor Rainbow Ted in some cold orphanage all alone… a little like the lion you found

  • Selina says:

    AND THIS IS WHY I CAN’T HAVE STUFFED TOYS. I WOULD WORRY ABOUT THEM TOO MUCH

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