Hold me, Mama Bear

August 16, 2020

On a recent visit with my two grandchildren, they pretended that they were baby bears and I was their mama bear.

“I’m scared,” said 3-year-old Annie as she shook. “Hold me, Mama Bear, hold me.”

I nestled her close, saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t let the monsters get you.”

On my phone I read the latest headline from a CNN report: “More than 97, 000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks of July.”

Annie’s words echo in my brain. We are all baby bears now. Trying to decide what safety measures we will accept or resist. Trying to support our families and communities yet safeguard our health and the health of others.

Lucky for me, I have a partner who can hug me. But I miss hugging other people, too. Never realized how much until I couldn’t do it anymore. This touching-elbows business now leaves a hollowness in my gut.

The internet works great, but I propose we could all begin to write letters again. The idea came to me in the Hallmark store when the cashier rang up a stack of cards which cost more than my weekly groceries.

Haven’t you got a box of saved letters stored in your closet or under the bed? How fun is it to read them and recall the person you knew or remember yourself at a younger age.

My mother saved all of the letters I wrote to her when I was away at college and graduate school. When I was taking an 18th century British novel class, my closing signature read, “Your humble and most obedient servant,” just like the books I was reading.

In one of her saved letters, I wrote, “I believe I am growing old like you, or are you growing young to be more like me?”

During the blizzard of 1979 while at Northwestern, I penned, “It’s minus 7 degrees and after 9 hours of writing a paper about Greek tragedy, I am inclined to leave the BIG UNIVERSITY and WINDY CITY and come home to you who bore me.”

Like my mother, I have chosen to leave my children the stacks of cards and letters that they have given me over the years. These gems are the closet thing to being hugged.

My daughter Lena wrote on a tiny sheet of paper, “Here is 20.00 dollars because I know you need it and I Love you.” It must have been during those lean years when I couldn’t hardly afford groceries. A great reminder of how fortunate my life has turned out.

One note from Annie’s father, my grown son Nick, is addressed to his Grandma. “Extra thanks for thinking of me on my birthday. I’m sad you couldn’t make it to dinner and I hope you feel better soon.”

Letter writing is something we could all do to help ease our anxiety.

As I celebrate my 41st wedding anniversary this week, I plan to surprise my spouse with an old letter I wrote to him when we were first dating. Back when we were baby bears, we believed love was enough to keep the monsters at bay.

Then I will say, “Hold me, Papa Bear. Please hold me. Please send the virus away.”

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter