I say she is courageous. Well, as courageous as a little Bear can be on her first solo trip into the big world. Until now I have been by her side through the many sensations that make up the earthly experience. I hope she is ready.
Maxima is begun while the XXXI Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are fed into my television set. As I knit parts of her and assemble her into the final companion she will be, she observes Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, sprint toward three gold medals. She witnesses Simone Biles almost pass out when Zac Efron kisses her on the cheek, and she learns what it means to feel sorry for someone, as Gabby Douglas is criticized for not putting a hand over her heart during the national anthem.
As the Olympics progress, Maxima, a bit closer to completion every day, follows Ryan Lochte's misbehavior in Rio and hears about pranks and lies and international scandals.
"Actions and their Consequences!" I think that is the lesson.
Of course I also train her in observing political gamblings. She practices catching Trumpish antics and Clintonian promises. I emphasize the seriousness of voting for a candidate and point out that we must have faith in the good judgement of the American people. What else can we do? For now I let her laugh off absurdities and praise logic and intelligence wherever it can be found. Only practice will make her "properly" selective.
We discuss sadness. I want Maxima Bear to know what sadness feels like. I read to her about Alan Kurdi, the three year old refugee boy who drowned in the Mediterranean. I add that his mother and older brother drowned too. And many more. I show her the image of Omran Daqneesh, the five year old who was dug out of the ruins of his home. The child who has never known "Peace on Earth." It is important for Maxima to recognize the signs of sadness. Like all companions she has to know when to hug. To kiss. To joke. To sing a little song. To put a paw on a child's shoulder in the middle of the night when all is dark and scary.
We must make joy when things become difficult. I believe a Bear must know about people like Malala Yusafzai who turned her own misfortune into helping other children get an education. I believe a Bear must see a YouTube video of Abu Ward, the last gardener of Aleppo. See him caress his plants among the ruins. Plant a flower for him.
Maxima is almost finished. I am working on her backpack. She says she needs reminders of her first home, before she goes out into the world.
"You might remember home when you share a piece of bread with a child," I tell her, after dragging her to my favorite bakery, "though it might be a different kind of bread. It might be steamed or fried, or made of mealie corn."
" You might remember home when you watch your new friend pick flowers."
We photograph Squash Blossoms. And potted Nasturtium. And pink Naked Ladies on the hill.
Maxima smiles a dreamy smile."I love the big orange flowers with all the petals the best."
I don't tell her how the beautiful roses at Kaiser Hospital once stopped me from crying. I just saw her smile; that's good enough.
"You will remember home when you tell your forever friend about the crickets that keep us awake at night."
" Do they have crickets in Africa?"
"I really don't know. Every place has its very own night sounds."
"One thing will always be with you," I say, sewing the backpack to her torso. "Madiba's wisdom."
Nelson Mandela, has been my hero for almost sixty years. While I stitch frilly layers to Maxima's skirt we listen to him on YouTube. I show her photos. Read from his speeches. Tell her about the young South African rebels I met many yeas ago in Germany. Every stitch of her embraces a bit of Madiba.
She interrupts my train of thought. "Can I have a little bear to take with me?"
I hesitate for a moment. And then I begin to knit a tiny Bear.
A tiny Bear for Maxima.
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