Sunday, 22 April 2012

Baring All

No, not just a series of puns about bare and bear, although this is a selection from my number of English bears, most of whom are about the same age that I am, which makes us all vintage at the very least.

The google-eyed character in the front is a guest from Russia. Not strictly a bear, not strictly an anything really, he is known as Cheburashka, (Чебурашкаand he is the one who interests me most at the moment. He demonstrates the power of vulnerability, something I'm having a bit of a struggle with myself.

Cheburashka is loved by Russian children, and he stars in books and cartoon films.
He was accidentally transported in a crate of oranges from his native tropical home and ended up in Moscow. When the crate was opened he was found, numb with cold and cramp, unable to stand or even sit, but his gentleness made him instantly loveable.
In England we might open a crate of bananas and be bitten by a poisonous spider;  but in Moscow a crate of oranges housed a charming little Thing.

This particular Cheburashka sings a synopsis of his story when his chest is pressed. He says his softness and gentleness make him lovable. People didn't understand him, but because of his vulnerability everyone grew to love him. Everyone responds to kindness and gentleness, even in odd little creatures. Perhaps especially in odd little creatures.
(Cheburashka occasionally lives with a crocodile, but this is not mentioned in his song, and it does nothing to detract from his charms. There are many of us who might appreciate the company of a crocodile at times.)

When I'm not gardening or otherwise messing about at home I am frequently to be found working as a volunteer 'here'. I do lots of different jobs and in all of them I am learning to be so much more responsive to vulnerability, both in myself and, much more importantly, in others. I am hugely privileged to be working with people who extend a hand and admit to needing a bit of support. I can take the hands and offer the support, and in doing so I receive infinitely more than I can ever give.
For so many people in my age-group of over 70 the 'stiff upper lip' was important. As a child the two greatest rules I had to obey were not to be a nuisance, and not to cling. This is not a criticism of my parents, but an observation of how things were. But now things are different. Of course emotion is recognised, feelings can be discussed, pain can be shared, weakness can be revealed.
Oh, the power of vulnerability! How brave we have to be to admit it. How lovable it makes those who can do so, and how vulnerable we all are, even if some of us can still hide it rather well.

So, long live Cheburashka, and may his message of gentleness and vulnerability spread beyond Russia!

For those who care about bears, the photograph shows (from top left clockwise) large Merrythought, House of Nesbit, sheepskin Tinkerbell, small Merrythought, Cheburashka and Wendy Boston.


Jenny Woolf said...

I had never heard of Cheburashka, but when you wrote about him he reminded me of Paddington Bear, who has the same kind of childlike vulnerability, to me.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jenny: I'm not very familiar with Paddington, but I think the elements of 'lost child' and a certain pathos must apply to many bears. It's fascinating that these little waifs wander their way through childhood stories and turn pathos into power.

Zhoen said...

The soft bits are where other people can find a place to nestle in.

I was told not to be a pest.

A time to be strong, a time to be weak.

The Elephant's Child said...

I am with Jenny Woolf here in that Cheburashka reminded me of Paddington Bear, who came to England from Darkest Peru.
Admitting to vulnerability is such a difficult thing to do, and so empowering.
Like you I do volunteer work, and like you I receive a lot more than I give.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: I need more courage to be weak than to be strong! I think you may be the same?
Elephant's Child: I must read about Paddington. I think we have a lot in common, too.

Zhoen said...

Oh, yes, but I've learned when to let others do their bit, and I let them. Not that I always do, mind.

Anne said...

I am impressed at the fine condition your bears are in. I don't have any of my childhood stuffed animals (I must have had dozens) but I keep one that my daughter (the Duchess) had when she was little. It was one of a pair -- a pink one (Pinkie) and a blue one (Bluie). Pinkie disintegrated long ago, but Bluie is still more or less intact. He's a link with a long lost past.

I was told not to be selfish, besides not to whine and not to make a mess.

Relatively Retiring said...

Anne:I do have my own bear from childhood, but these are actually part of a collection made later.
It sounds as if you had a disciplined upbringing, too!

Fire Bird said...

good to have all the bears named, and to know you are meeting vulnerability halfway at the hospice

Relatively Retiring said...

Fire Bird. Oh, it's a lot more than half-way, and those names for the bears are actually their brand names in case other collector were interested. I am not as imaginative as Grayson Perry with his Alan Measles!

Sevenfoural said...

Beautifully written x

Relatively Retiring said...

Sevenfoural: Tnank you. I'm pleased to announce that Cheburashka will be on tour shortly!