Joan, a life lived

You may or may not have read my second post – ’tis here if not – in which my childhood illness came up. I have only a few memories of being in hospital but I’m fairly sure Joan would have been with me. And must have been with me after that blood transfusion. Joan is a bear, a koala bear (on reflection, koala bears may not have plastic faces and hands, one of which allows said bear to suck its thumb, but at the very small age at which I received Joan, she became a koala bear, and you’ll never convince me otherwise), given to me by one of my beloved grandmothers, picked up from a jumble sale (if I recall correctly), so she was pre-owned and pre-loved before she came into my possession. I don’t know why she’s called Joan, I have no idea where the name came from. Absolutely none. Maybe there was a now forgotten children’s character in a book I loved.  But she is Joan and she has been with me for my entire life that I remember. She came to hospital with me, and she has lived with me in every place I have moved to, keeping the connection with home and family and love, and reducing the distance from all of that just a little. Toys, dolls, teddy bears, those tokens of childhood that so many of us had, are disregarded and put aside as years progress. Their ownership is mocked, and in adulthood we are made to feel small, inferior and emotionally stunted if that evidence of childhood is revealed or noticed. Such items evoke such power over our emotions and comfort when there is pain; if we place faith in an unseen god, keeping one small bear from childhood to keep faith seems unremarkable.

She is still with me. A happy and cheerful memory of childhood, security and a reminder that you can carry your family with you everywhere you go. She has been to Australia and New York and Ireland. And must have been to France, and various parts of the UK. She will always stay at home now – I went away for a trip to get away from work and emotional blah several years ago, up to York (York may be down for you, or across an ocean, but it’s up for me in London), and on the journey up my suitcase was stolen. I know! Who steals a suitcase? from a train? Of all the luck. I survived, although probably arriving only a few hours from home in a country where I already spoke the language and in a city in which there was an M&S and Boots from which to get supplies, I was hardly in the Sahara. I digress. I decided to stay up in York for the week I had planned, even though my first thought on realised my belongings were not with me was to turn round and go home again. I had a really lovely week despite it. I didn’t want to worry my mum or anyone with the suitcase story until I got home, so I didn’t. And the first question my mum asked me on my telling of the story was ‘Was Joan with you?’. I’m sure she asked how I was too, because she would definitely have done that. But she was right to put Joan first. I would have been distraught if Joan had gone. Nothing else in that suitcase couldn’t have been replaced. Except Joan.

So now she stays at home. A little sad, as I like to think she enjoyed being stuffed into a rucksack in a rather undignified manner to travel halfway across the world. Of course by leaving her at home when I go away travelling she is left at risk of me leaving a grill on and the flat burning down, but I’m pretty sure that won’t happen… Even though I have an uncanny knack of carbonising toast.

If you have a childhood toy/doll/Star Wars figure (I don’t have the latter, but I imagine a lot of people do), treasure it/her/him and don’t make anyone make you feel less for doing so. And as always if you need help, links are in About.

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