By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Marlene Ratledge Buchanen | Gwinnett Citizen
Marlene Ratledge Buchanen

Once upon a time, a handsome man met a beautiful woman on a blind date. The man and woman fell in love. The handsome man gave the beautiful woman a teddy bear and a proposal. She accepted both.

They married May 1, 1944, and the handsome man went away to war. They wrote to each other almost daily. The handsome man sent 746 letters home while he was in the army during World War II. She kept every one of them. When he died, she read them all again and cried afresh. When he came back from the War, the Teddy bear was sitting on the bed to welcome him home.

It has been 75 years since Daddy gave Mama that bear and the proposal. That little bear sat in the bedroom all of their marriage. They had been married 59 years. 

Mama gave me the little bear and told me to take care of it. I had pretty well destroyed a lot of its mohair when I was a baby. I put the dress on it that I wore when I was brought home from the hospital at birth. The poor thing is nearly bald, so I placed a crochet doily that Mama’s Mama had made on its head. I put my Granddaddy’s “spectacles” on it and gave it a cup to hold from my Great-grandmother’s china. (Think I am just a little sentimental?)

marlene440Snell, James and I went to the Snellville Fall Festival, and James was intrigued by the Sunshine Bears booth. (www.sunflowerbears.com) Donna and her daughter were making teddy bears out of loved ones’ clothing. It hit me. I have my grandmother’s handmade dress and my granddaddy’s overalls. I talked to Donna about the clothes I had, and she agreed to do something with them. I mailed everything off, and she sent me this adorable little bear in Grandmama’s floral dress and his overalls. She kept the smocking and tatting to make the upper part of the bear’s body and the jealousies of the overalls. I put one of my Grandmama’s handkerchiefs in the pocket and tied another piece of her tatting around the little bear’s head. There is a little-mended place on its foot. On its fanny, Donna put a label “These are the clothes we used to wear. Hug it tight & know we are there. Love, Grandmama Louisa Smith Evans 6/4/1889-6/15/1967 & Granddaddy Eli Evans 10/19/1889-3/21/1852.

I loved it. Then I thought “Daddy’s uniform!” I still had Daddy’s old police uniform complete with the light blue shirts, by far the prettiest uniform that the City of Atlanta’s law enforcement officers ever had. The all-navy uniform worn now is not that attractive to me. Donna and I had another conversation, and off I shipped one of Daddy’s light blue shirts and dress uniform jacket. The buttons for the eyes are from his father’s uniform. In the 1920’s the police officer uniform had brass buttons. In later years, the uniforms sported silver colored buttons, which is my bear’s shirt front.

So Bear Number Three was born, “Daddy’s Bear.” Donna used the jacket and kept all the braiding on the sleeves and the City of Atlanta Police Department emblem. I have added Daddy’s cap, his smallest holster with one of my .38 snubnosed toy guns and his whistle. His fanny reads” These are the clothes I used to wear. Hug it tight & know I am there. Love, Daddy. James Edward Ratledge 11/21/1916-9/24/1998.”

So I have three little bears. Mama’s Bear, Daddy’s Bear and my Grandparent’s Bear. And that is just how I think of them. The bears helped to cleanout Mama’s cedar chest, but most importantly, they are a great way to remember people who were so dear to me.

Bear hugs to all you fellow sentimentalists.