Mary Christmas Bear

by Barbara Mason from Thunder Bay, ON
Nov 26, 11

When our first child was born in 1980, the event elevated my husband's grandmother, Mary Porter, to the rank of Great Grandma. Somehow, over the next few years, our very young son started calling her 'Biggy Grandma'. No one knows for sure where this term came from. It wasn't due to her size, but I think in his very young mind he understood the hierarchy of grandmas, and used this term to differentiate the 'big' grandma (the one with more seniority), from the other grandmas.

Time moved on, and unfortunately seven years later, Biggy Grandma passed away. In the settlement of her estate, her mink coat was left to my husband's aunt, Vivian White.

Living through those cold Winnipeg winters, Vivian occasionally wore the coat, but as styles changed, she wore it less and less frequently. When she heard that I had taken a course on making teddy bears out of re-cycled furs, she said that maybe someday she would give me the coat since she wasn't using it anymore. I knew it was a prized family possession, whether in use or not, and because of the emotional attachment I didn't expect to ever see the coat.

However, on a very hot summer day in Thunder Bay, when we were hosting a backyard family barbeque, Vivian surprised us all by walking into the yard with sunglasses and the fur coat! We howled in laughter at the sight of her being slightly overdressed on that sweltering July day! The fact was, she was giving me the coat!

I felt both honoured and under pressure to now have the family heirloom. Everyone knew that I would be doing the unthinkable-cutting up such a beautiful garment.

I made two bears that fall, and presented them to my mother-in-law, Edith Mason, and her sister, Vivian White, at Christmas. The sisters sat together on the couch, opening their gifts at the same time, and spontaneously (as if on cue) they both started crying once they realized what the gift was! I labeled the bears "Mary Christmas Bear", after their mother Mary Porter.

What was once a coveted family heirloom, reduced to a lonely life in a basement closet was now a prized possession again for two sisters to view daily and remember their mother. I hope Biggy Grandma approves.