The Besh-Ge-Tour House of Music in my hometown held enchantment for a young girl in her early teens. The shop was medium sized but appeared smaller due to the large variety of musical instruments sprouting from every nook, cranny and useable shelf space. It was thought the owners, a middle-aged couple, had come from Germany, but no one seemed positive about that. European was as far as anyone would state with any degree of certainty.
While the store was already intriguing with its imposing name and the heavily accented husband and wife, the main attraction for me was the store-front window. It was always crammed with a jumble of instruments but its display also included miniature teddy bears, set up to resemble a classroom. The largest of these bears, 4 inches tall, stood at the front of the “room.” A tiny music stand stood next to the “teacher” bear holding a teeny sheet of music. There were six students, a bit smaller at 3 inches. They sat in tiny chairs glued to a flat piece of thin wood. All the bears black eyes and noses, were fully jointed and had short light brown fuzzy fur.
I’d always loved bears and I loved those especially, but no matter how many times I visited the store and asked about them, they were never for sale. I brought a friend with me one day and I showed her the bears. She wasn’t impressed. “They look constipated.” I didn’t know exactly how that looks, but I loved the bears, constipated or not.
Years passed and it was the summer of my junior year in college. One day I read the Besh-Ge-Tour House of Music was closing. The owners were quite old, although I’d thought they were ancient years ago. For purely sentimental reasons, I drove into town to see what they had left. I had given up the piano, switching to guitar and I could use some new, more popular, sheet music.
As I walked in, I glanced into the front window. The bears, what I thought of as “my bears,” were gone. My heart sank. But then, it had been maybe six years or more since I had visited the shop.
The wife was standing at the counter. She looked up. “I wondered if you’d ever come back.”
“Why? What for?” I asked.
“Why for the bears, of course. I’ve been keeping them for you, hoping you’d return before we closed up.”
“You still have them?” I was amazed.
She nodded and disappeared into the back of the shop. She returned holding a cardboard box. She put the box on the counter and opened it. There, inside, were seven bears and the classroom, still intact as I remembered it.
She pushed the box towards me. “They’re yours, if you still want them.”
Of course, I still wanted them. I was speechless. Then I remembered they weren’t going to be free and I was almost afraid to ask. “How much are they?”
“My gift to you. My husband and I brought them with us when we came over to this country. I’ve been waiting for the right person. You see, they’d once belonged to a dear friend and I couldn’t part with them. Johan thought I was silly but I didn’t think a child would appreciate them so I never put them up for sale and no adult ever asked to buy them. But every time you came in you looked for them and asked if they were for sale. I was going to finally give them to you because I knew you loved them and would take good care of them. But you never came back. Until now.”
That was 50 years ago. I still have those bears. I bring them out at the holidays and my husband looks at them with disdain. “They’re pretty ugly. Why don’t you give them away?”
Yes, they are old, and some of their fur is gone, however they haven’t lost any of their stuffing. Or their appeal. And like their original owner, I can’t part with them either. While I was teaching, they usually sat on my classroom desk, protected inside a clear plastic box to prevent them from “walking.” But they were always accessible so the children could see them.
Maybe it’s time to alert our son, so when he’s cleaning out all our stuff after we’re gone, he won’t toss them away. They’re now part of the family.