My name is Alice Ridges. Alice isn’t a popular name any longer, but the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’ had been one of my mother’s favorite stories when she was a child, so I was named Alice. But I don’t want to tell you about that story. The story I wanted to tell you about happened in the Autumn you see. And every time I smell the aroma of the leaves turning color, like they are right now, I think about what happened then, like it was happening all over again.
I had a job transfer from where I had been living since college, to the town my mother had grown up in. I had often visited my grandparents there as I grew up. A nice town with tree lined streets and children on most every block. The children were a little harder to come by when I was a kid. That generational skip as the kids moved away and the grandkids came back to stay and raise their children. In a word ‘suburbia.’
My grandmother taught me how to knit on the front porch there, while my granddad tossed a ball around with my brother Theo in the front yard. Grandma taught my mom how to knit there too, as my uncle played ball with granddad when they were young. History repeating itself in a way.
Well anyway, my grandparents had died about six years before I moved here. My parents still owned the house and they had a neighbor looking after it. This arrangement was supposed to be a temporary situation, just like when they bought the vacation house in Florida when my brother and I were both in college. But, as you can guess, after that they only came back up north for weddings and funerals.
When I called and told my mother about the job transfer she wrote to the neighbor and sent me the key along with the deed papers saying that I was now the new and sole owner of my grandparents estate. What this really meant that I was given the job of cleaning out and keeping up the old place. Mom wasn’t coming back to do it and didn’t care to. Some memories she didn‘t want to relive I guess. They had given Theo our childhood home when he got married.
I kept the neighbor, an old man named Mr. Wickens, on as a sort of gardener. The boy across the street mowed the lawn, but Mr. Wickens took care of the bushes and flowers. He liked doing it and didn’t have a yard of his own now that he lived in an apartment down the street. I didn’t know a thing about plants and I was busy with the house itself.
I was all moved in by the end of July and spent August working as the new manager of the department store from Friday to Tuesday each week. My weekends consisted of Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I didn’t mind that at all. I worked at cleaning out and repairing the house on the inside as the house painters made repairs and painted the outside. I wasn’t doing too many upgrades yet. I just had the wires and plumbing checked and they were sound. Plenty comfortable for just one person. And I was enjoying a period of reliving my childhood. I made it look as close to how my grandparents had it when I was a kid and just basked in the love and comfort I felt there.
Once September came around I was settled in on the first floor and the one bedroom I had been using upstairs. I was taking a much needed break from working on the house itself. The weather was still warm, but you could feel the difference in the air. There was a coolness to it in the evenings and the smell of the leaves getting ready to change colors.
On this first Wednesday weekend of September I had worked hard cleaning out the last of the old stuff in a closet in the front bedroom all morning and I was knitting in the afternoon shade on the front porch with a pot of tea on the table beside me. I daydreamed of the past as the purple sweater I was knitting grew in my hands.
I don’t know why I looked up… but I think it was the quiet. The kids were now in school and the afternoons to this point had been kid noisy. Jump rope chants, roller skates and bicycles, stick ball games on the corner, squeals from the swimming pools in the back yards.
I looked up to find a small boy at the head of my front walk way to the house. He was just looking at the house in a lonely sort of way as he held onto a teddy bear. I said hello, but he didn’t move or answer at first. This gave me time to look at him. He was about four I guessed. Not old enough to be in school but old enough to walk to a friends house down the block by himself.
He was dressed in shorts and a sweater. The sweater looked hand made, probably from a grandmother or aunt, the pattern was an older style. But he also had on knee socks and brown leather shoes, with a white button down shirt under the sweater like a kid in a story book from the nineteen thirty’s through fifty’s. His teddy bear was old and threadbare, but loved, because it was patched in places.
“Is there children here?” He asked in a small, but not weak voice.
“No. No children, only me.” I answered and then added, “But you can sit here and keep me company until the children get out of school if you like. It won’t take as long to wait that way. Or do you have to ask your mommy first?”
“Mommy has a headache and told me to go out to play, but Sissy is in school and I don’t have anyone to play with until she comes home.”
“Well you can sit here and we can wait for Sissy together. Want a drink of juice?”
“No, I’m not to have food from others. Allergies.” He said with a sorrowful shake of his head.
“My name is Miss Alice Ridges, and you are?”
“I can’t say. But this is Teddy… Teddy Heenmee.” He showed me his bear.
“Glad to meet you Mr. Heenmee Bear.” I said, and the boy laughed as he climbed onto the porch swing.
As I knitted we talked about what school was like for his sister and knitting sweaters and days off from work and headaches and bears until the children came down the sidewalk in groups from school. I poured another cup of tea and when I looked up again he was gone. His sister must have been in the last group of kids, their backs disappearing behind the front hedges of the next door neighbors property.
I went into the house to start dinner feeling that I had at least made one friend since I had moved to town. Not that the neighbors weren’t friendly. I was just too busy up to this point to get to know them for more then a wave across the lawn. I ask Mr. Wickens who the boy was the next time I saw him, but he didn‘t know any of the children by name.
The weather was so beautiful that I repeated the afternoon porch knitting and tea on Thursday and the little boy with the teddy bear showed up once more.
This time he was wearing jeans with the legs rolled up to fit him and a pull over sweater. The bear was still in tow, but his tongue was coming loose… The bear not the boy. I stitched it back in place for him and replaced the one worn eye with an extra purple button from the ones I had bought for the sweater I was knitting, and he thanked me.
I moved to the porch swing to see when the children were coming from the school and he was using my wicker chair with the pillow seat. He had the seat up like it was a car hood and he was pretending to be fixing my car for me while he taught the bear the different car parts that his daddy had showed him.
When I asked him if Mr. Teddy Heenmee Bear like to fix cars too, he looked at me funny and laughed. Then he asked me, “Why do you call my bear Mr. Heenmee?
“Because that is what you told me his name was yesterday. Teddy Heenmee.”
He giggled and rolled on my freshly painted porch floor. “Not Teddy Heenmee. Teddy. He is Teddy and me is Teddy.” He gave the bear a hug and then scrambled up onto the chair and started to give the newly fixed motor a test drive, saying between motor noises, “My mommy said I was okay here, because she knows who you are.”
The phone rang and I went in to answer it, we didn‘t have cell pones back then. By the time I was done talking to my brother about his twins graduating to middle school by the end of this school year, teddy and Teddy were gone.