We had a houseguest a couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend, who was passing through town and needed a place to stay. We were more than happy to oblige, and she was quite pleasant to have around. Divorced many years ago, she has basically lived her whole adult life as a single woman. She has one daughter who's in her 30s, also single. They're very close, it appears. And they're both very accomplished women. The mother's a retired head of a library. The daughter's also a librarian. And although I'm not sure of this, I think they may both be lesbians.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about the woman who stayed with us. She was warm, friendly, intelligent and seemingly sane. But when I brought her a spare blanket, right before bedtime, I noticed that she had placed on her pillow a small stuffed animal, a bear. It was arranged so that it looked like it was resting in bed, waiting for lights-out. "Oh, what's that?" I asked, expecting her to say it was something she carries with her on trips to remind her of home. Instead, her voice suddenly changed, so that she sounded like a little girl, and she said, "That's Paddington."
For some reason, I decided to play along, so I said, "Hello, Paddington, how are you enjoying your trip?" The woman seemed delighted by this, reached over and grabbed the bear, pointed him in my direction and said, "I'm enjoying it very much. The people I'm staying with are very nice." I noticed her voice had subtly changed again. It was no longer a little girl's voice. It was now a little boy's voice, presumably a little boy bear's voice. By this point, I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable, so I bowed out of the conversation as quickly and politely as possible.
I told my husband about it as we were preparing for bed, but he didn't think it was any big deal. "So she plays with bears," he said. "There are a lot worse things she could be doing." And then I remembered that he still has his old teddy bear from when he was a kid. It's up in the attic, and as far as I know he never goes up there and plays with it. But his mother had saved it for him, and it obviously has a lot of sentimental value for him. Maybe that's why he's been willing to make room for a woman in her 60s who still talks to the animals.
The next morning, he woke up before our guest did, grabbed a bite and was out the door. I'd taken off the morning to play hostess, and who do you suppose joined us for breakfast? That's right, Paddington. She put him on her lap as if she were going to feed him, and I found myself asking her whether Paddington might want his own place at the table. In her regular voice, she politely declined the invitation. And except for the fact that she had a stuffed animal in her lap, we proceeded to have a normal, adult conversation. I even forgot Paddington was there a couple of times.
Later that morning, she hit the road. Yes, I did have to say goodbye to Paddington. He was in his traveling clothes, by the way, shorts and a vest. And she not only put him in the passenger seat next to her, she fastened his seatbelt. I ask you, Mr. Right, is this by any stretch of the imagination normal behavior? Or is this a severe case of arrested development? I told my friends about it, even added that I thought she might be a lesbian, and they felt that explained the whole thing, that lesbians are heavily into stuffed animals.
Not to cast aspersions onto lesbians, whom I love, but have you ever heard that?
Goldilocks: Readers, want to take a crack at this?
To get Paddington's side of the story, write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 608-251-1206, ext. 152. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.