He wears a surgical mask, although not enough research has been done to know if cardboard bears can contract Covid or spread it. He mostly wears it to protect others, and so he is a noble, caring bear. The window, against which he presses his face tirelessly, faces the parking lot of a townhouse. Cars come and go, people walk by, and children wave back at his two dimensional hand, and I think I hear him sigh.
He misses the hugs and living room gatherings with friends and family. That all seems distant to the bear now. The murmur of voices that mean other souls are near when you went in a restaurant, or bookstore, or museum. It was the communal background of sound that we never knew was so beautiful until now, he thinks. The bear waves to remind others and himself that we are still all a part of the larger whole.
Brown acrylic paint had been slathered, mud-like, onto a shape that was cut in the image of a bear. It was cut from a cardboard box that had once held a product made on the other side of the world. Those people too, who are as far away as you can get, are now wearing masks similar to the bear’s. He waves for them too from his window.
Thank heaven, the bear thinks, for our technology that allows us to maintain our relationships. However, talking on computers and phones is too much like pressing against the cold hard window to see others. It is better than being a solitary cardboard box, but not as nice as being closer to others.
On Halloween, in respect for the occasion, he wore an extra mask. Like Batman’s cowl. That mask covered what the surgical mask had not. He knew that no gypsies, goblins, princesses, or superheroes would visit with open bags in small hands and declare the time honored ultimatum of “Trick or treat.” He waved anyway.
During Thanksgiving, he held a turkey leg up high like the lantern on the Statue Of Liberty. He was guiding the faithful to enjoy what repast they may have. “Give us your isolated, your masses, yearning to be huddled once again.” There was not be a table full of adults and children making noise and eyeing the whipped cream surface of a pumpkin pie. He waved anyway.
A Santa Claus hat perched on the little bear’s head as snow fell and trees were tied to cars. Lap sitting on Santa would be rarer that year. Static sounds made by the happy tearing of wrapping paper would be briefer than other years in memory. The bear hoped others would see him and smile. A small thing he knew it was, but it was all he could do nonetheless.
Groundhog Day came and went with not enough imagination on the part of the painter to decorate the bear. The little cardboard figure smiled under his mask and waved on anyway. Winter would turn very cold soon, and it was important he keep up his vigil.
Red glitter decorated his chest, like a giant heart medal, on Valentine’s Day. “Love to all because all need love,” it seemed to say, at least it seemed to me. That window was frigid and fogged up with his breath, but his acrylic fur kept him warm in his duties.
He knows other holidays are coming that will require him to don a hat or wear a flower. These are not really his style, and sometimes he feels foolish and silly. Blushing under the mask, he thinks of hugs and the closeness of others, of small ones sitting in laps, and of hands being held once more. So he wears those changing adornments with courage and sacrifice.
Leaning his forehead against the glass, he sees his small world drift, crash, and navigate across tragedies, elections, anger, the homeless poor, fear, hunger, loneliness, lawlessness, and many Holidays. Still, he waves. I like that about the bear, about us. We still greet each other, smile under masks, and recognize each others’ humanity. How alike we all are really, in our needs and the bear’s.
The painter may have to make the bear a bandaid for his furry arm when he gets his vaccinations. Bravely, he will show it to his limited world of friends. The little bear can hardly wait.