This is Wellington (above left, below) and this is the story of how a most lovable bear came to join my family.
About four decades ago, when I was very young, my mom and I lived in Utah. But she was – and will always be – a New Yorker. Due to her East Coast ties, we would visit The City a couple times a year. These were always whirlwind, action-filled vacations.
I remember my mom would walk through Mid-Town so fast while holding on to my hand that my feet barely ever touched the ground. On those too-brief vacations, we’d hit the museums, do some clothes shopping and catch a couple Broadway shows.
But my mom was always really good about including Amanda-centric activities on the itinerary: a puppet show in Central Park, a visit with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum or a run-through my beloved F.A.O. Schwarz, where I would sometimes get a haircut and would always pick out one toy (often something Barbie-related, occasionally a collectible sheet of NASA stamps – don’t ask).
During one of these trips – we were staying at the Wellington Hotel – my mom announced that she wanted to go shopping at Conran’s on the Upper East Side. For those of you not familiar, Conran’s was like Ikea, Crate & Barrel and Harrods all rolled into one. The English department store (it still exists outside of the U.S.) specialized in high-design, but affordable, everything – bedding, glassware, furniture, and, yes, there was a pretty appealing toy department.
That morning when we arrived, my mom covered my eyes and steered me down an aisle. We stopped, she took her hands off my face and shouted, “Surprise!” I opened my eyes to an entire shelf of drinking glasses. They were pretty, but, huh?
I was confused. However, my mom had a pretty good track record of creative gift-giving up to this point of my life (it’s kind of a sport in our family), so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. I also didn’t want to hurt her feelings because she seemed genuinely stoked about those glasses.
So I turned on my enthusiasm and exclaimed, “Oh boy! We’re getting new juice glasses? Cool!” She cracked up, grabbed my shoulders and spun me around – and that’s when I saw him. This was THE best teddy bear I had ever seen. I didn’t even know how to react until my mom explained this guy was coming to live with us.
At that age, I was a strong Paddington Bear supporter and assumed anything named “-Ton” was related. Combine that philosophy with the hotel we were staying at and a bear gets a name. (Several years later, a stuffed rabbit named Templeton, top right, arrived via helium balloon claiming to be a distant cousin.)
Wellington, who is now pushing 40 and has never needed to visit the doll hospital, has been a member of the family ever since. He’s not just along for a free ride, though. There have been times when the bear had to pull his own weight. Once, in Utah, there was a casting call for bears to star in a Teddy Bear of the Month calendar. Bears were entered in multiple categories like smallest and most-loved. Wellington – all decked out in his red cowboy boots, jeans and vest – won for best dressed and was awarded his own month in the calendar. The bear had his 15 minutes. Oddly, even while he was enjoying his newfound celebrity, we never came across another Wellington.
To this day, I have no idea how my mom knew he’d be waiting for us at Conran’s or how she knew he’d be the perfect addition to our little family. Thanks, mom, for always providing me with unique surprises and inspired adventures!
All photos courtesy Amanda Krotki, Jmore
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