The phrase “Hand Me Down” either brings back fond childhood memories or a lump in your throat depending on your up-bringing and siblings. For me, I have a sister who is 4 years older than me so I wasn’t exactly stoked to be getting that pink tutu she outgrew in 3rd grade. However there was a magical time when I was 13 years old that I was the same size shirt, pants, and shoes as my father (who was a CEO at the time) so I was rocking Prada, Hugo Boss, and Zegna in the middle school lunch room. Sweet! Then he gave me hand me down underwear…not so sweet. Hand me downs are crucial when having a baby and I have to say…of all the crap I bought when Kate was pregnant, we only needed like 20% of it. The stuff we use the most were hand me downs like the changing station, toys, shoes, shirts, etc. Now Max is using one of the best hand me downs of all time…my toys I saved from childhood.
Every picture of me when I was Max’s age has me dragging around my favorite stuffed animal “Apple Bear.” He’s a little orange bear, he wears a blue bib with red trim and an apple on it, and he squeaks when you squeeze him. Apple was my snuggly every night, he sat on my bed all day waiting for me to come home from school, and he terrorized many a LEGO village. He was my Woody or Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Then, like in the movie, I grew up. I didn’t need an Apple Bear anymore…but need and want are two different things.
Apple sat on a shelf and the older I got the further back on the shelf he sat till one day he was just in a box at the back of my closet. I found him as I packed to go to college and decided to bring him with me…then realized how terrible of an idea that was, put him away, and then changed my mind and tossed him in my duffel just before catching my flight. He sat on the top shelf of my closet for all 4 years, made a cameo in one of my student films, and eventually ended up in a box in a storage space for 9 years after I graduated. Then, I got a sonogram saying I was going to be a father.
When I pulled him from the box it was easy to see his age, he’s the same age as me…32 years old which is more like 80 in Apple Bear years. All his fur is matted down flat, his stuffing pushed to the edges of his limbs, and he has a look of being well-traveled and loved. His squeaker still worked though and everything about him said “hold me.” So Kate and I cleaned him up, gave him some love, and placed him in Max’s nursery on the shelf. After a few months Apple moved from the shelf to the dresser. Then he moved to the toy bin. Then, he moved to the crib. He’s been there for the past few months and Max was content to ignore him as he was more interested in snuggling his bunny or his Wu Shock. Then, about a week ago he found the squeaker on Apple.
Apple found a new best friend.
Max takes Apple with him most places now and says his name over and over as he walks through the house, “Aaaa-pull!” Its one of the coolest things ever. I always knew Apple would get handed down to a child but seeing him with my son and seeing Max love him the way I loved him is special. I felt so dorky keeping that bear for so many years because I was truthfully keeping it for me. Selfish. I couldn’t let go. I was like Linus with his damn blue blanket dragging behind him everywhere he went. It was a ridiculous reminder of my childhood. It was not a grown up item. It was a teddy bear. A stupid bear with an apple bib. My stupid bear…Max’s bear…Apple Bear.
Some hand me downs are special, like Apple. I am so glad he’s still in my life and it’s not crazy to say this, he looks happy to have a friend to play with again. He’s my Velveteen Rabbit. If you have that special toy, stuffed animal, snuggly, or doll from your youth that you saved…make sure you saved it for someone. Give it to your child, grandchild, relative, neighbor, or anyone who will love it. Those toys have a purpose and sitting on a shelf is not it, they need to be loved and when you see it being loved you will love it all over again. Max and Apple Bear, the dynamic duo. I know now that Apple will be with us for generations and will be providing love and giggles to my descendants for as long as he can…but that’s a far off thought, right now he’s busy snuggling Max, reading books, playing basketball, and squeaking when squeezed.