For what seems to me like a million lifetimes ago, there was once a non-profit literacy program for kids (which I’d created) called, The Story Train. The mission of the program was to inspire and motivate kids to want to write. I would work in an elementary classroom and guide the students through the story writing process. After they finished their stories and illustrations, we would take a field trip to the local cable studio of whatever town I was working in and showcase the students and their stories on a cable TV show called, The Story Train. Part of my guiding them through the story writing process was to share how I, as a writer, went through the process too. Thus, for the benefit of my students I began writing stories as well (although I’d always been a writer).
This particular story is written like a long poem to illustrate to the students this style of writing. It also has a tremendous amount of meaning for me. There is a character named Ben, a five year old boy, who also happens to be disabled and unable to walk. At the time of writing this story, my own youngest son, Carmen, was struggling with juvenile arthritis which he’d been diagnosed with when he was just two years old. Similar to Ben, my son was also five years old. I remember how often I used to cry silently for my son because of the pain he was in and the weakness in his legs which forced him to rest while the other kids played outside. Although I hadn’t planned on writing a disabled character into my story I guess my feelings of helplessness regarding my son’s illness were wearing deeply on my mind.
My son would have been 25 years old this year if he hadn’t died in a car accident five years ago. So, this story is 20 years old. I still cry when I read the part about the little boy who needs to rest a lot and about him playing GI Joes and army men.” I miss you so much, Carmen baby.
HOMER BEAR © Sharen Robertson 2013
Today is Teddy Bear Day at Peter Brown’s school. Homer Bear is here and all his friends too. It’s not very often, Homer hates to admit, when they all get together just to laugh and to sit. He remembers one special time he likes best. It’s the one he remembers above all the rest. “The most special time,” Homer says with a smile, “Was when I fell in the school rubbish pile.”
My friend Peter was busy with his teacher that day and when I fell in the basket no one noticed right away. When Peter finally realized I had been misplaced, it seemed I had vanished without even a trace. My Homer is missing,” Peter said with a sob. “My bear has been stolen. I have been robbed!”
But no one told the janitor when he cleaned up the school to look out for Homer so he never knew, when he emptied the baskets and barrels of trash he had no idea of their teddy bear stash. Into the dumpster buried in deep was poor orphaned Homer all alone in the heap. “I miss my Peter, it’s no fun alone.” But Peter was already on the bus headed home.
In the meantime, the rubbish truck was coming around, and the school parking lot was where it was bound. The dumpster was lifted high off the ground and when it was shaken Homer fell to the ground. As Dave the rubbish man drove the truck from the lot he noticed poor Homer lying alone in that spot. Dave picked up Homer and he knew right away, “You’re such a good looking teddy, I bet someone lost you today. School is closed until Monday, we’ll have to wait until then but, I have someone at home who could sure use a friend. When my work is finished I would like you to meet a little boy named Ben who is so very sweet.”
Dave drove toward home and Homer could hear children laughing and playing everywhere. “What a nice neighborhood,” Homer wished Peter were here, he’d be riding his bike like the kids over there; climbing trees, skipping rope, Homer strained for a peek, hop scotch and red-light and hide-n-go-seek.
They stopped at a small white house with green trim. Dave said to Homer, “It’s time to meet him.” Dave opened the door, and they went inside. Dave said, “I’m home, and I have a surprise.” They walked to a doorway and stepped inside, Homer opened his eyes even wider than wide.
In the meantime, poor Peter was very upset. “Come on now,” said Mother, “we’ll find Homer yet.” Just wait until Monday, we’ll search the school, Homer Bear is somewhere waiting for you. But Peter just sat there and stared at the floor, and dreamed of Homer coming through the front door. For Peter, the weekend would just drag by, but for Ben the few days with Homer would fly.
“Oh Dad,” said Ben, “I like this bear.” Dave put Homer down on the small wheelchair. “No Dad, right here,” Ben put his hand on the bed. “I want him to sleep here with me?” “Sure he can!” Dad said.
As Homer laid there in bed he looked all around, there were braces, a wheelchair, and medicine he found. Little Ben squeezed Homer as tight as he could. Dad said, “Now you rest, a nap would be good.” “I like my new friend. He’s a good little bear.” Ben closed his eyes and held Homer near. Homer decided right then before they both fell asleep, “When I get back to Peter, this friend we will keep.”
All weekend long Homer stayed with Ben. They played GI Joes and army men. They watched cartoons and you know what else, Ben shared some secrets he told no one else. “I wish one day, one day it would be true, I could walk,” said Ben, “I could walk with you. We could go to the park and ride on the swings. We could run through the woods as if we had wings. Teddy, could we pretend for now it was true, that we’d always be friends just me and you?”
Back at home Peter waited, finally his mother said, “It’s Monday morning, Peter, time to get up out of bed.” Peter dressed up real quick and was ready to go. “I hope someone found Homer. I hope it’s someone I know.”
But in the little white house Ben wasn’t as glad. “I don’t want to go now. Do we have to Dad?” Dave said, “It’s Monday, and you know what I said. Time to get moving, and up out of bed.” From the little white house the car drove away. In silence they traveled to the school that day.
Peter and his mom were already there. They were telling the secretary, about the little lost bear. Peter stared outside, it was a cloudy day, his friends were calling him out to play. He shook his head, ‘No.’ He wanted to wait inside. He didn’t feel much like going on the swings for a ride.
Dave parked the car, It was quarter to nine. Ben said to Homer, “I wish you were mine.” Into the wheelchair, Dave put Homer and Ben. Some kids gathered ’round, and were staring at them.
From the office window Mother could see, the kids watching something, but what could it be. A man pushed a wheelchair and to her surprise, a boy sat with Homer, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She knelt down to Peter and softly said, “Someone’s coming to meet you,” and Peter turned his head. She pointed outside, he saw the wheelchair, and in it was someone holding Homer his bear.
He went to jump up and run for the door, but Mother said, “Wait, let’s talk some more. I know you miss Homer and you’re happy right now but the boy in the wheelchair found Homer somehow. Peter, just look at that boy holding Homer so tight. Let’s think for a minute about what is right. Before you take your bear let’s try and find out just why they’re together, they’re friends now no doubt. Peter thought for a moment, yes, it was true, and the boy holding Homer looked so sad and blue.
Dave pushed the chair across the hall floor. Peter stood waiting at the office door. He looked down at the boy in the chair. Then Ben said to Peter, “Is this your teddy bear?” Ben held out Homer so Peter could see, “Yes, it’s my Homer, could you give him to me?” Then Ben said to Peter, “I like him a lot, I wish I could keep him,But I guess I can not.”
Peter held on to Homer and looked down at Ben, he looked so sad, like he’d lost his best friend. Then the sad little boy who sat in the chair, said, “Good-bye Teddy, we’ll play again somewhere.” Ben turned his head and Dave pushed them away. Peter said, “Wait, I have something to say.” He looked at his mother, she nodded, ‘Yes’. “I have an idea, a way that is best.” Dave said, “Now tell me, what do you mean? He belongs to you, the teddy is yours it seems.”
“But, what if,” said Peter, “I could share him with Ben. Homer and I could visit every now and then?” Ben said, “Oh yes Dad, do you think they could, come visit with us, because I think they should.”
Dave said to Peter, “You’d be willing to share? That’s very generous of you, and very fair.” Peter’s mother was smiling and Dave turned to say, “He is a fine young man, you must be so proud today.”
Then the little boy said, “Hi, my name is Ben.” Peter knelt down with Homer and gave the boy back his friend.
Sharen Wendy Robertson owns the copyright to all posts on this Blog.