The Bear Bank

The January writing prompt is things. Things that stir a memory or remind us of a certain person. Items that we hold dear or maybe ones that provoke other emotions. Try to do two for the month, extra credit for more than two.

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When we were in our late 20s, my brother and I used to joke about what we wanted in our mom’s house when she passed. It seemed at the time like an event that would never happen, and we liked to perturb her with our banter. We would tease her that we were using invisible ink on items to mark our initials and claim her treasures. In all reality, there were three things I wanted the most: the blue bowl, the bear bank and her rolling pin.

I have no idea the origins of the bear bank. It is made of plaster and missing its stopper. No markings or signatures and the paint is starting to scuff off on areas. As a child, it fascinated me for two reasons. Initially, because it was SO HEAVY. I thought there must be millions of dollars in it. One time she took all the change out (upon adult reflection, it was probably because we needed the money for food or gas in the car) and it was so light and easy to hold. I wanted to keep it in my room, but back on the shelf it went.

The main reason the bear fascinated me was that it reminded me of the picture book Blueberries for Sal. In the end papers, it shows the mom and little girl canning. To my child’s eyes, I was sure this was my mother and me. It looked like us and my mom did lots of canning.

Illustration credit: Robert McCloskey

To me, the bear bank obviously reflected the bears in the book (though the book just has one child bear and the bank has two, I can only assume that the bank represented my family with the addition of my younger brother; I, am of course, the one in the mom bear’s arms). To me the bear bank symbolized my mother and I when I was little. We would do all the things together, the fun and the day to day. She probably longed for some alone time, but to me it was perfect.

In my 30s, I unwrapped the bear bank as a birthday present. It had a few coins still in it, but so great was the wealth I felt at owning the bank and having it for my own. Shhh, my mom said, maybe don’t tell your brother. I didn’t and it makes me smile when I see it sit on my shelf, heavy with quarters and memories.

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