A brightly-painted, blue striped wagon, with vivid red letters HOT DOGS FOR SALE , painted on one side, had been a welcome sight at the State Fair for generations.
When his father died, Hank Junior inherited the small fair-grounds business.
With a busy life on his farm and with a wife and young children, it was often difficult to join in the Carnival atmosphere at the two State Fairs he attended yearly.
The day he met three- year-old Danny Williams changed many things. At the time he had no comprehension it was connected to the decoration he had attached to the wagon.
When the small curly-headed, brown-eyed boy passed by, he cried out and pointed excitedly at the coloured wagon ‘Look Mummy, hot dogs. I’m hungry!’
Then, the child’s eyes fastened, as if mesmerized, on the small teddy bear attached to the awning.
‘It’s a teddy. I love him. Please, Please, will you buy him for me.
P l e a s e!’
Hank replied kindly. ‘The teddy is not for sale. He was specially made to be a mascot and part of my business.’
Although he spoke softly and gently, his heart was strangely stirred when he saw slow tears trickle down the boy’s cheeks.
Danny rubbed the tears away with his fist and asked. ‘Is it ok if I give him a hug?’
When the man nodded, the child skipped towards the wagon and embraced the tiny toffee-coloured bear.
When Danny returned to stand beside his mother his face looked surprisingly happy now with a warm glow.
He turned only once as they departed but he waved back at the bear as they exited the fairgrounds.
The mother rubbed her eyes. For an astonished moment she thought she saw the Teddy wave back.
………….. ‘She thought she saw the Teddy wave back.’
Uncle Joseph repeated his words then stopped, cleared his throat, placed the notebook he had been reading, across his lap, and sighed.
Flash and Fina
Uncle Joseph & Sue
Sophie the cat. Meow!
Folk gathered to hear the story of Hank the Hot-Dog Seller.
It was being read from notes held by Uncle Joseph.
Harry was home
Barney was very interested
Sebastian was ready for any accidents.
The Secret Seven (including Hank stayed hidden)
Edmond sat down fully dressed And ready for adventure
.....'she thought she saw the Teddy wave back.'
The words for a few moments resonated in the air...
A voice suddenly spoke from the dark corner of the cupboard (this was the place the ‘Secret Seven’ tiny bears had chosen as their hiding place),
‘I’m Hank the Hot-Dog Seller bear. Is it alright if I come down? I really didn’t think I wanted to share. My story was something I thought I wanted to keep stored in my heart. That’s why Joseph was reading from notes he had gathered. However, you are all my family now and I think I should tell you myself.’
Old Ted nodded. ‘Come down then, Son and share only what you feel comfortable doing.
The golden/toffee bear with the perky cap climbed carefully down five shelves from the top corner and waddled to the centre of the mat.
‘Hi all, I’m Hank!’
‘Hi Hank! Many voices in unison responded.
‘Woof!’ Missy commented.
‘Meow! Sophie added. “Please be quick in case a human wakes up.'
‘Oh! Shh Sophie!’ others voice chorused.
Hank bowed his head as if paying tribute,or saying a prayer like humans do, to the God above the sky, they worship and love.
The room was unnaturally still………Somewhere on the wind a sighing came…
’A-men! A-men! A-men! So be it! A-men!.
Old Ted who had seen and heard many things, believed in that moment, an angel whispered.
Hank spoke clearly.
Humility was evident in his opening softly expressed confession.
‘When I first met Danny, I broke all the rules of Teddy Bear behaviour. I spoke. I whispered in the child’s ear. 'Don’t be sad. One day we will be together. I love you too.'
It was an impulsive action and it cheered him up. I even waved as they left. I thought the mother saw me and hoped she would think it was her imagination.
They disappeared and I was shocked at how dissatisfied I now felt with my life. I went to carnivals. Passers-by sometimes commented about my being around and patted me but now I wanted MORE.
I had broken the rules about involvement with humans. Now I knew what it was to miss being loved.
Once a year, Danny and his mother came to the State Fair when it visited their town. One year they came with his brother, and the Dad carried a little girl – I presumed a sister.
My eyes however were only on Danny. These visits were the high points of my life.
He clapped his hands and ran to give me a massive hug. ‘Little Teddy. I love you’ he said.
I whispered back, ‘I love you too little boy.’
He laughed. His dancing back down the road with his family was a picture of pure childish joy.
Hank looked at me with a questioning expression. I cheerfully waved my paw with the hot-dog.
His shocked face warned me to be careful. Adult humans expect answers, to questions, that worry them.
I settled back and waited for Danny to say goodbye before they left. They would then return to their farm for another year.
I felt droopy and disinterested. Hank brushed my fur with a small electric vacuum.
More people commented ‘What a lovely little teddy you have there Hank’. He would nod happily while I felt this strangely droopy sensation inside.
The next time the family came to the State Fair was a year later.
Everything was different! Danny little sister was now walking, and Danny was being pushed by his Dad in a wheelchair.
“He has a serious blood disease” The Mother said tearfully to Hank. “He may have only a few months more to live.”
I watched the father gently roll the chair on wheels towards me and saw the little boy’s hand stretch out to touch my foot. Danny said, ‘I love you, little golden Teddy Bear.’
‘I love you, little boy’ I replied.
I will never know if Hank ‘heard’ me speak. He obviously sensed something because his reaction was so sudden it surprised everyone.
He lunged towards his wagon and began unfastening the small straps which positioned me onto the awning.
With a big smile he kissed me gently on my furry forehead. He swept his large hand and swung me and placed me on Danny’s lap.
‘A little gift to you from me.’ Hank said.
In that moment I was………no words can ever fully express what was beyond description … overwhelmed by what I believe is called Happiness. I toppled over. I lay face first across Danny’s knees.
He hugged me. Happy tears rolled down his cheeks.
Mum, Dad and their other children danced round and round the wheelchair. ‘Thank you’ the adults called. ‘We know Danny has always had a special love for that Teddy.’
Danny looked up. His brown eyes connected with Hank’s green ones with an understanding. ‘Thank you’ he said. ‘I will look after him.’
“I know you will.”
Hank the small bear, took a deep breath and turned to Old Ted.
‘Do you want me to finish now or would you like me to tell the rest of this story?’
‘Son, it is entirely up to you. If you feel right to finish to-night, we do have a quiet un-interrupted night . It seems appropriate for you to continue.’
Other voices chorused their approval.
Missy barked once in approval. Sophie mewed.
One lone bear voice who remained unseen and unknown said clearly. ‘Please continue. We want to know what happens.’
Later that afternoon, the family stopped at Hank’s stand and while the humans enjoyed food and drink, I studied Hank’s face. He saw me looking, and for the first time, I knew suddenly that I was more than an attachment on his stall to Hank. He had genuine feelings for me. He was saddened to see me leave.
Danny and I waved at him.
He waved back but directed a special salute towards me. (Perhaps I imagined it!).
‘Two years of life with Danny are hard to express.’
The little bear paused.
‘We all knew he was very ill. Other teddy bears came into Daniel’s life. A huge brown one called ‘BORIS’ brought momentary excitement. He sat in grim satisfaction, at the end of Danny’s bed for a whole winter.
Others came as gifts, were loved and found places of permanence on shelves, and in toy boxes.
I was with Danny always. We went to doctors. I stayed in hospitals and enjoyed holidays at beaches and in the mountains. We went on trains, and boats and once ‘by accident’ – I went swimming.
“I’m very sorry” the Coach said, ‘that small decorative honey-yellow teddy got tangled in the towel.’
Danny’s mother rescued me. I was soggy, bedraggled covered with weed and my hot dog was limp and squelshy.
Danny didn’t care, he hugged me passionately.
“I’m happy, so very happy because you are back with me’ he said.
I remember I nodded furiously. He hugged me more tightly.
Oh, those couple of years were GREAT!’
Hank’s voice tapered off.
He stood very, very, still.
‘What happened?’ Sue asked.
Old Ted murmured ‘’Take your time, son. Stop, if you want to. I’m sure Uncle Joseph can read the rest of the story notes if you prefer’.
The little bear coughed. ‘Thank you, but I would like to finish the story myself.’
He stretched and waddled up and down for acouple of minutes.
Then carefully focussed towards the watching faces. he said.
‘Unexpectedly, Danny died.
His small heart stopped beating. It was a dark night in mid-Summer. I was on the pillow beside his head. What I saw will remain with me forever -------
A light gently permeated the room and there was an ‘unseen Presence.’
It was beautiful – not scary at all. The child I knew seemed to leave his body and it was as if LOVE exploded. Heaven and earth met in one moment…I heard a soft gasp as Danny breathed his last.
I heard in the stillness many voices sighing on the wind. I knew humans prayed.
The lounge room in the House on the Hill was hushed as the little bear finished this part of his story.
Even the hum of the fish-tank was a soothing background gurgling murmur.
I remember little of the next few days. Mostly, I sat on the table. Human life around me swirled.
There were praying people, hugging people, laughing people who brought joy in the midst of tears. Many stories were shared about Danny and his baby days.
One morning the house was surprisingly empty.
Little Meg, Danny’s baby sister, suddenly grabbed me. Her tiny hands held me tightly.
‘I’m taking you’. Her voice sounded both sad and defiant.
After a car journey with family, we entered through an arch to a place where there is a beautiful garden.
Lots of people were gathered around a shiny box. Many folks scattered rosebuds and flowers. Meg gently placed me on the lid and said ‘I think you should go with Danny.’
The human expressions on her parents faces were unhappy and a bit sad-looking at what she had done.
I sat there on top of that shiny box, wondering.
I did not believe Danny was in the box. Had Danny gone somewhere else? Did it matter what happened to me? I was only a little teddy and happy to journey anywhere, because of love for my friend.
A ‘miracle’ happened.
It was not magic because it made all the humans look to ‘higher’ possibilities in their lives.
The box was being lowered into a specially prepared place not far from the water and under trees.
A gentle breeze rustled the leaves, and its breath swept across the box and stirred the rose petals. Perfume and gentle music wafted through the air.
I heard the prayers of the gathered people as the box disappeared into the hole and was reverently covered by soft earth.
I watched. I was able to see everything going on below me.
I was in a tree!
How I got there I will never know. One thing I did KNOW the certainty that no crafted toy should know, Danny was NOT in the box under the ground.
He will not be sad because he is alone.
He will never be ALONE.
Like me he had flown away. Unlike me, his Home is above. Mine will always be down here. Only humans have a Saviour who has gained for them access to Journey upwards to Himself.
The gardener who found me in the tree, took me to a Craft Shop in the City.
The kind lady there said ’Thank you, I know where this little one belongs'. That’s how I became part of The Bear Collection and came to live now in this House on the Hill.
Thank you for listening. I’ll go back now to my friends in our quiet corner.
Walter, Graham, Harvey, Clement Bob and Patrick shuffled positions and welcomed him back on the shelf.
The SECRET SEVEN were only in a private corner because their stories were about sensitive and special human journeys.
Love Divine and Eternal was not meant for general sharing among ‘magic’ bears.
Old Ted said ‘Thank you sincerely Hank for telling us the whole story and now it is time for us to ‘settle’.
He clapped his paws. Animals and bears returned to stillness and sleep.
Dazzling shafts of morning sunlight revealed no trace of the shared night-time stories.
Flash and Fina however, splashed water everywhere in their spontaneous JOY for life and to welcome the new day.