These Wednesday and Thursday teddy bear visits went on rain or shine through September. By the time it was turning October I had written my phone number on a piece of paper and told him to give it to his mother. I was uncomfortable with not meeting her after so many weeks of her son spending time at my house. But she still hadn’t called me. And his sister never came up the walk to get him, he just seemed to disappear as he dashed away when the children walked past from school.
Teddy was a well behaved boy and he never asked for anything. Not a drink of water or a bathroom break. He just played in a constructive imaginative way, while I knitted away, and we would talk about whatever came to mind as we watched the leaves change color up and down the street.
The day before Halloween he told me he wouldn’t be able to come back to visit because it was getting colder outside and his mother didn’t want him to play outside anymore. But, he would come in costume to ‘Trick or ‘Treat’ the next evening and I would have to guess what costume he would be wearing. I didn’t guess the right answer and he left without me knowing which kid he was at my door the next night. I suspect it was a ghost because, when I thought about it later that night, it was the one thing I didn’t ask him and the most obvious.
I missed his visits in the afternoons, but his mother was right. The weather had turned colder and I didn’t sit on the porch any longer myself. I’d try to get a look at the kids through the window as they past from school, but they were so bundled up and wind blown it was impossible to tell them apart.
In no time at all it was time to get ready for Christmas. I was done with the cleaning out of the second floor and some of the Attic. I wanted to dress the house for the holidays before it got much colder. My brother and his family were coming for Christmas because I was going to their house for Thanksgiving day. This early November Wednesday, I had climbed the ladder to the attic and I was looking for the outdoor decorations. The wooden Santa and Sled for the porch roof had been found in the potters shed out back, and I found someone at work to hire to give them a new coat of paint. But, I was looking for the candy canes and fake candy garland that granddad used to have on the porch rail and steps. And if I didn’t get it set out soon the weather would turn too cold and I only had so many Autumn days left to get the job done in.
I knew that the things I was looking for were probably gone by now, but I kept on looking through the boxes, trunks and dressers up there in the attic just in case there was enough remnants left, or maybe a picture, so that I could have it replaced. I went through boxes and boxes of my mother and uncle’s things from when they were kids. Grandma kept it all from school work to drawings, broken toys to used up clothes. There were many boxes of junk I had to just throw away each week as I was cleaning the place out.
I was dusty and dirty as I came to the last corner to look into. I had found many memories and trinkets from the past up there, but like I said, most of it was junk. I had found the old Christmas tree ornaments and lights. The lights were too old to trust, but I brought the decorations down stairs and it gave me back some hope. I had a pile of shoe boxes of some love letters between Gram and Gramps to be saved and there were some journals from the early years of their marriage that I had spent some time reading instead of finishing the job and the morning was long gone.
I had learned that the uncle my brother was named for, Theodore, had gone missing on Halloween as a kid and was never found again. My brother and I had though he had died from a childhood illness all these years. I couldn’t wait to show Theo these journals when he got here and ask him how to talk to mom about it.
Back in the attic, I moved to the last trunk tucked away deep in the corner. It had been draped in an old sheet that had been made into a child sized ghost costume long ago. The only trouble was that this trunk was locked. I put the ghost costume on the save pile and I brought the boxes of journals down stairs. I found a screwdriver in the ‘catch all’ draw in the kitchen and went right back up to work at the ring with the lock hanging on it.
I pinched my fingers only once. I was working hard and sweating so much by the time I had broken it open, I had muddy sweat running into my eyes.
When I lifted the lid I was thinking about Christmas, but my thoughts quickly turned to Teddy as I saw what the trunk held safe from harm all these years.
The first thing I saw in the trunk as I wiped the muddy sweat from my eyes was an old well loved teddy bear with a new purple button eye. It was wrapped in the mummified arms of a small boy dressed in the same clothing I had seen on Teddy that first day of my Autumn knitting afternoons. It seems my late Uncle Theodor was finally found.