Yesterday I read this story that I wrote a number of years ago to my grand daughters Maddie (7) and Molly (6). They loved it.
I don’t WANT to go out and play with Jimmy. I don’t WANT to leave Mommy alone so that she can pack our suitcases to go back home. I like it HERE on Grandma’s farm and I want to play inside with Pink Bear Friend.
Grandma has this bed that folds in half and looks like a giant old-fashioned toaster with a cover on it. Pink Bear Friend and I have been riding it like an elephant all over Africa and now I have to go out and play with Jimmy. I’m supposed to GET ALONG, but he teases me about Pink Bear Friend and about being like a girl.
“Jese-e-e-e, NOW,” Mom yells to me. I don’t think she knows how hard it is to get back from Africa.
“Come on up,” Jimmy calls from the tree fort. I shimmy up the rope with knots in it. Dad can shimmy without knots, and Jimmy can, too. He’s eleven. “I Tarzan, you Jane!” yells Jimmy, beating his chest.
“I can’t be Jane. I’m a boy,” I say.
“I Tarzan, you boy,” says Jimmy, in his biggest, loudest voice.
“Okay,” I say. I really want to be Tarzan. Maybe next year when I have my superman muscles I’ll MAKE him let me be Tarzan. Right now I’ll be plain old boy.
We play with monkeys, fight off big poisonous snakes and ferocious tiger and paddle in a boat along the Amazon. “Lunch!” Mom calls from the porch.
We get back from South America and race to the picnic table where Mom has set out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cold glasses of milk. Mom loads the car while we eat. Grandma sits on the porch swing peeling apples and cutting them up. She drops each apple in a baggie and hands them to me and Jimmy for the ride home. I hug her good-by. She smells like lavender and fresh apples. She promises to come home for Christmas and I try not to think how long away Christmas is.
Dad’s waiting for us when we get home. He makes special pancakes with cinnamon. Mom mostly does the cooking, but sometimes, when she can’t or doesn’t feel like it, Dad makes pancakes. Dad wears this blue apron that goes around his neck and around his waist. He whistles and flips pancakes on the grtiddle and flops them on our plates.
“Okay, you monkeys, time for bath and bed,” Mom says.
Dad comes in with a book. Jmmy says he’s too old for bedtime stories. He has his own book opened in front of him, but I know he’s really listening to Daddy ’cause sometimes he asks a question about the story.
I snuggle under the covers and reach for Piank Ber Friend. No Pink Bear Friend. Mom must have packed him. “I need to get Pink Bear Friend,” I tell Dad in the middle of a sentence.
I slip out of bed before Dad can say, “Stay in Bed.” I meet Mom in her bedroom where she’s unpacking. “I’ve come to get Pink Bear Friend,” I announce.
“Jesse, I haven’t seen him. Didn’t you bring him in the car?” she asks.
“No, I thought you were packing him while I was out playing with Jimmy.” My stomach feels funny.
“Jesse, I’m sorry. I haven’t seen him,” she says an my stomach squeezes more and I think I might cry and I don’t want to cry ’cause of Jimmy.
Moms voice is soft. “Where was the last place you saw him?”
“We were playing on Grandma’s roll-away bed and then you made me go out and play with Jimmy,” I answer, hoping he’s there and safe and at the same time wishing he were here with me.
Mom says she’ll call Grandma and Grandma can mail Pink Bear Friend back to me. “It will take a few days,” she says. She comes with me to my room to tell Daddy about it. They tuck me in and say prayers.
I want to say, “I can’t sleep without Pink Bear Friend.” I want to say, “Let’s go back to Grandma’s right now.” I want to say, “Don’t turn out the lights because I don’t like being awake in the dark.” Instead I say, “Good-night Mom. Good -night Dad. I love you, too.”
They turn out the light and shut the door. I think, “How many is a few?” I think, “The last time a few seemed like way long. I think, “What happens to kids that don’t sleep for a few whole nights?” I think, “What will I do all night long, awake in the dark?”
Jimmy says,”So what are you going to do all night awake in the dark?” I tell him to shut up. I’m not s’pose to say “shut up” but I don’t care. He’s not s’pose to hear me think.
Pretty soon I hear Jimmy breathe noisy. I listen to Mrs.Babcock practicing her voice lessons from the house behind ours. Her voice goes up and down and sounds wavy. When she finishes, I can hear the crickets and I try to guess how many are out there. I can see a place on the wall next to me where the blue paint is chipped off and it’s white underneath. The moonlight is shining on it and it looks like a mailman carrying his bag. I think about Grandma’s farm and the tree fort and getting big enough to shimmy like Daddy.
I see the sun coming in my bedroom window and watch the dust dancing in the sunbeam. “Hey, wait a minute,” I think, “It’s morning and I fell asleep without Pink Bear Friend!”
I jump out of bed to find Mom and Dad and Jimmy. They are already dressed and finishing their cereal. I climb into my chair and fill my bowl with Rice Crispies. I look right at Jimmy and say, “I told you I could sleep without Pink Bear Friend and I’m going to shimmy like Daddy, too.”
A few days later a package wrapped in brown paper comes in the mail. It has my name in the middle and Grandma’s name in the corner. It comes while I am playing outside with my friends.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” they ask.
“Nah, I’ll open it later.” I take it in and put it under my pillow.
We climb trees and take turns climbing up a rope without knots. If I put the rope on top of one foot and step on it with the other foot, then p-u-l-l with my arms, I can make it HALF WAY UP.
Mom calls, “Supper!” I race Jimmy to the back door. He wins but I don’t even care. Supper is meat loaf, smashed potatoes and carrots.
“Jesse climbed HALFWAY, Dad,” announces Jimmy to Dad before I get a chance. He sounds proud of me. Jimmy’s not so bad.
Dad smiles and pats me on the back. “You’ll have to show me after supper,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
After Dad tucks me into bed, I reach under my pillow and pull out the brown paper package. I’m glad Jimmy got to stay up late to watch a show. I peel off the tape and paper and there is Pink Bear Friend. He’s the same old bear I left on Grandma’s roll-away. The pink is mostly rubbed off, his legs are stiff and his body is floppy. I’m glad to see him but I don;t want to HAVE TO sleep with him again.
I put him against the wall out of my reach. I think about how much I like having him back. I think, “If I am gald to see him, if I let him sleep with me again, will I go bckwards?”
Finally I say, “PInk Bear Friend, I AM glad to see you. You can sleep with me tonight, but I want you to know I don’t HAVE TO. I can go camping without you. I can stay all night at a friend’s without you. I can go to Grandma’s farm without you. From now on you are a Stay- At-Home Bear.