When I was two years old my uncle gave me a “real live,” Smokey the Bear,” teddy bear for Christmas. Smokey had a hat, badge and shovel, which was lost so early on that I don’t remember them. But somehow the plastic belt with a metal buckle with his name, “Smokey,” on it lasted many years.
He was very soft, though I remember him now as having had some of his fluffy fur “loved off” like the Velveteen Rabbit’s fur at the end of the book of that name. Smokey had a rubberized face with a snout and a pink tongue. His golden eyes looked like real eyes with irises and pupils.
He went with me everywhere until I started school. Once my family took a trip to Florida when I was four years old. Thirty miles down the road from a tourist spot we just visited, I started crying hysterically! I couldn’t find my Smokey the Bear!!!
My parents figured out that I left my Smokey the Bear at the last sight-seeing stop. Moma and Daddy knew I would not sleep that night without my Smokey! Daddy turned the car around and drove back 30 miles to where I left Smokey. Here is a picture of me and my Smokey the Bear.
I went to school, married and packed Smokey for our move. Before long there were mostly memories and photos left. Smokey was packed away with my childhood in a box. After thirty or more years of adulthood, I discovered that the box, that Smokey had been stored in, had become wet from a recent flood in our garage. It was too late for him. He was already mildewed and smelly. So I sadly had to throw out one of the last vestiges of my childhood besides my memories and pictures.
A New Old Smokey
Much later I was thinking of my Smokey and thought about trying to find one on the internet. I found one just like my old Smokey. I excitedly bought him and lovingly cleaned his face, eyes, and fur as best I could. I matched blue duck cloth material to his old stained pants and sewed them on a piece at a time over the old pants. And proudly put his belt back around his middle.
The just purchased Smokey as he was.
I have on occasion hugged him recapturing some of the feelings I had when I hugged my old Smokey as a child. Sometimes I just look at him and smile remembering how much I loved my old Smokey.
A Symbol of My Childhood and Adulthood
I really do love the new old Smokey too. He is so much like my old one that he warms the heart of my inner child, whom I continue to nurture even after all these years. The new old Smokey is like the old Smokey, yet different. He has pale blue stains on his paws and now has new pants sewn over the old ones. A few seams needed mending too.
You see the new old Smokey is like me too. I still have my “little” Elaine but I too have needed repairs. I have “stains” from old wounds from sad and painful experiences. The old wounds were sewn up, patched over or cleaned away. The new old Smokey is as a reminder that even though there have been difficult times, with emotional scars from healing wounds and painful memories, I can still enjoy my life. (My inner child told me so!)
Like the new old Smokey, I am better in spite of (and in some cases because of) my past experiences. I am of more value now, just as he is. He is a vintage toy from the 1950’s. I was born in the 1950’s, so I guess I am vintage too. I am more loving, happier, more thankful and wiser now.
How is Your Inner Child?
I think we all need our inner child to help us remember to let go and enjoy; submerse ourselves in play sometimes; see the lights, beauty, happiness of Christmas, holidays, nature, a pet, or time with family and friends as our own little, inner child once did. Watching little children play or better still participating in their play can be very healing.
I am not a psychiatrist but from my own experiences, I believe the following. If we have had sad or troubled childhoods or adulthoods, where we had to safely tuck away our little inner child to protect them, maybe they can come out every now and then to play for a while, if life is safe enough, for even a brief outing of joy, peace, beauty and love.
Just maybe with successive outings, that sweet, loving, happy, inner child can stay out longer each time. Maybe they can help us recapture the joy we once felt before our lives crashed around us.
Sometimes when I order lunch at some restaurants that have good chocolate chip cookies I order one and take it to my seat to wait for my meal. If I am hungry or if I just want one, I open the package and eat half or all of one. One day a young man was cleaning a nearby table and saw me eating my cookie. He gave me a quizzical look. I smiled and said, “I am a big girl and can eat my cookie when I want to!” He laughed and so did I.
Welcome Your Inner Child Back
Find something that brings you joy and nurtures your inner child. If they were sick or sad, try writing them a letter, or pretend they are there in front of you and tell them how sorry you are that their lives were so hard, but that you love them and want them to find new joy and life and you need them to help you enjoy your life now.
Put aside the sad, painful memories when you are ready and able and make room for some happy memories, even small ones at first. You deserve it. Your inner child deserves it. They didn’t ask for the situations they experienced and neither did you. Love them, love yourself.