Column: Building a bear — and memories — on a summer day together


VIRGINIA BEACH — With all of the coverage throughout the country after “Pay Your Age Day” overwhelmed Build-A-Bear stores this past month, I had to go back to my one and only visit to the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Lynnhaven Mall. 

It was four years ago, and my granddaughter was nine. For just $10, her aunt had bought her a bear a few months earlier, but they didn’t have time to buy clothes for the bear.

Knowing that I would be watching her on Memorial Day while her mom was at work, she asked if I could take her to Build-A-Bear for clothes. Instead of buying the usual candy, stuffed bunnies and more for Easter, I had bought her a $50 gift certificate for Build-A-Bear. 

Bright and early that Memorial Day, my granddaughter jumped out of her mom’s vehicle with her gift card in hand. I laughed and explained we would have to wait until the mall opened. She watched the hands on the clock move ever so slowly until it was time to leave.

As we entered the mall, I suggested that we go to Build-A-Bear last since she wanted to go to other places in the mall. We chose Johnny Rockets for lunch. She was very interested with all that was going on around her. She saw pictures of old cars from the 1950s and 1960s on the wall, and she was very excited that she could put “a nickel” in the juke box that was on the table and play a song.

She asked me how much a hamburger was back then. I told her, and she laughed. Then she ask how much the car in the picture on the wall cost. I had to do a little more thinking on that one, but I believe I came close.

Soon it was time to go to Build-A-Bear. As we entered the workshop, she announced that her bear was still at her aunt’s house. Not a problem. We’d get another bear she could keep at her house. After all it was just ten bucks. 

Instead of a bear, she chose another animal. One worker was busy stuffing the animal. Another worker announced that, for a few bucks more, we could buy a heart to put in the animal. Then we were ready for clothes and accessories. 

There were shoes, dresses, pants, hair, even hairbrushes for the hair. Soon she had her arms full of things and laughed because she needed a basket to keep track of it all. 

I explained that she only had $50 to spend. She decided that she really didn’t need a chair that became a bed. After all, it was $25. We ended up with about five items that – adding in her head and counting on her fingers – should come to about 50 bucks. As we neared the check out point she picked up a small stuffed animal from a huge pile and laughed. 

“I can buy my stuffed animal a stuffed animal,” she said. 

She put the items on the counter and waited. It was $50 plus tax. I searched through my purse for the tax, and the cashier wanted to know whether, for a few bucks, we wanted to purchase a bag to carry our goods home. 

We declined that offer, and she ask if we wanted to donate some money for whatever event or charity that the store had going on that day. Of course, the store or company that owns the store gets the credit for the donation and not us. 

As we left, a mommy and daddy were coming in. The mom was holding onto the hands of two small children, and the dad had one on his shoulders. I wondered how they could afford to build three bears and accessories. 

We made our way out of the mall, but a guy approached us at one of the kiosks with a free gift. When I reached out to take it, he grabbed my hand to tell me how lovely my skin was. Apparently, after taking a closer look, he decided that I needed “some work” done.

I finally retrieved my hand. My granddaughter asked why the guy thought that I needed help. She thought that I looked adorable. 

I explained to her that I didn’t have a lot of sadness, depression, frustration, stress, anger and the like in my life. I have healthy habits and I exercise, and these things take years off my face. 

The kind of loveliness that can’t be found in the bottles and jars that the man was trying to sell us. If she thought that I was adorable, that was why.

We skipped along the mall. She took my hand and asked whether we could go to the cemetery to visit her grandfather. I told her yes and that we would take some fresh flowers.

She got out of the vehicle, with flowers in her hand, and we saw all of the flags blowing in the warm breeze. It was a day similar to the one on which we buried her grandfather almost nine years ago, when she was a baby.

She played with the beautiful flowers, and we were there together with flowers among the flags for our veteran.

Russell lives in Cardinal Estates.

© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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