FIRST PUBLISHED JAN. 25, 2015
I, actually we — my granddaughters, daughter and I — have just recently collaborated and written the first draft of a book inspired by a well-loved teddy bear purchased from an antique store.
Last summer when I took my granddaughters Jain and Sofia antiquing, they spotted a little brown teddy bear right before the store closed. Fell in love with him immediately! What a mess it appeared to be, too. Fur all matted, stuffing no longer firm and plump, and a huge button sewn in place of one of its original eyes. I thought it looked pretty funny, but the girls loved how he — the bear was most decidedly a boy in their minds — was so perfectly imperfect! And, of course, they insisted he absolutely had to come home with them because he needed someone to love him again. They couldn't stand the thought of him sitting on a dusty antique store shelf all lonely and forlorn. Naturally, soft-hearted grandma that I am, I quite agreed, and this lonely little bear was lonely no longer.
On the way home in the car, the girls' minds were whirring, trying to imagine just how old their new friend was. They wondered about his past life, all the places he had called home, what the children were like who had played with him. The tale started to write itself when Jain and Sofia gave him a name and began to weave his life story. As they figured he was quite an old bear, they began his story several decades ago and gave him names assigned to him by his first, second, third and even fourth owners. I helped them flesh out the stories of each family and all the adventures and escapades he had with their children. It was decided his time with the fourth owner was when he acquired his button eye and floppy, worn out appearance. I asked the girls what they would name him now. They remarked how it looked like he'd taken a few falls in his life and appropriately named him Geronimo. For isn't that what children shout when they pretend to jump from something? I agreed it was a strong and proper name for him.
When I visited my daughter and granddaughters in November, we worked on the story some more. Through December we finalized the details, consulting via email and phone calls. The girls got a good laugh out of some of the verbiage I used, and were puzzled by words or expressions they'd never heard. So we wrote and rewrote until the story sounded just right. The beauty of it is they looked at it from a child's viewpoint, which in turn helped me understand how to write for children.
Our daughter, Katie, posed Geronimo for pictures we needed to illustrate our story and my husband laid out the photos and text to make it book-ready. A quick trip to an office supply store and, voila!, we had a covered, 5x7 spiral-bound book for about $4! Our labor of love was complete and a copy was sent immediately to our son's little daughter, Olivia, as Jain and Sofia wanted her to have the story in book form as their gift to her for her second birthday.
When I wrote the acknowledgements page, it occurred to me how often family members or family stories intertwine with the tale we had created. Some names given to characters in the book are actual names of people in our extended family. Certain mannerisms and characteristics of family members came alive in the telling. Even the name Geronimo is significant in that the girls live near a street called Jeronimo Road. Their mama had named one of her teddy bears Brumbelow after a street near where we once lived. I asked Jain about the street name connection, and she admitted that was, indeed, partly why she chose the name Geronimo. Children will ask what your childhood was like, they will remember it, and, if you're lucky, they will use your stories in their own!
I am now searching for an illustrator in hopes of getting the book published and available for purchase. It has been an exciting endeavor and one that I hope to continue, with another children's book in the works!
I urge you, gentle readers, to create treasures like this with your children and grandchildren. Watching your child's enthusiasm as you take interest in their fantasy world, telling and creating stories together, and then believing they're worthy to be published is such a rewarding experience for everyone involved! And having them turn those projects into a labor of love for someone else is a treasure that will sit on your heart forever and make you so proud to be their grandparents!