You readers are so cool. And sweet. You responded to last week's column with delightful comments, thoughtful and whimsical. Some of you shared lovely personal sentiments as well, and you know what a sucker I am for sweetness and sentimentality. Thank you all for a wonderful week of bear emotion.
To recap: Last week I announced that, after six and a half years of widowhood, I had fallen in love at first sight and moved the big guy into my home that very afternoon. It's not as crazy as it sounds - he's a gigantic stuffed bear - but the impulse purchase did seem a bit weird, even to me, because I've never been particularly fond of teddy bears. As I explained last week, I've had a lifelong love-hate relationship with bears, being born in Chicago and an alumna of Baldwin High School, but traumatized by childhood teasing over my maiden name, Yogi.
Here I must confess, this wasn't my first bear buy. In recent years, while traveling for storytelling gigs, I started collecting those miniature bears you find in airport sundry shops, bearing the name of the local city. I would have preferred plush cats, but bears were all they had. I've got seven of them now, and the sentimental fool in me has a fond memory attached to each one. Strangely, I've been to Chicago twice since starting my collection, but never got myself a Chicago bear.
Back to last week's column. I asked for help in naming my new furry friend, and you did not disappoint. Your suggestions ranged from the traditional (Cuddles or Cuddly, Papa, Teddy) to the exotic (Balbear - a variation of Balbir, a Sanskrit name meaning "strong man"). Balbear could also be interpreted as a short version of Baldwin Bear. Extra points.
Several people suggested Hawaiian or Japanese names, including Hau'oli (happy), Ku'uipo (sweetheart), Aloha, and Kuma-chan, a familiarization of the Japanese word for "bear." My mom pointed out that I could call him Ma-chan in honor of both my father and my son, who share the Japanese name Masayoshi.
There were some funny, punny submissions too. One wit, after reading my description of writing my column while lying in bed with my bear as a backrest, ventured forth with Bear Behind. And a couple of clever readers came up with sweet little tributes to my late husband, Barry Shannon: Very Beary and Shannon Barry (or Beary).
Some folks focused on the Chicago Bears connection and submitted names like Ditka, The Fridge, or DA Bear, as in the "Saturday Night Live" skits. One reader proposed giving the bear my last name and calling him Chicago Collins, which sounds like a blues musician or 1930s gangster, don't you think?
Still others cast their votes for names I'd already considered and mentioned last week. A few thought I should confront my childhood stigma and name him Yogi Bear. Another suggested Yogi Berra, which actually was another grade school nickname I resented. One person, probably an old classmate, pointed out that my new housemate should be called Boo Boo, because I'M Yogi.
Surprisingly, the majority of votes were for Stephen Colbear. Seems there are a lot of Colbert Nation citizens living here on Maui. As one of them, I'm conflicted over using this name. According to the Colbert Nation's Wikiality website, bears are godless killing machines and the dreaded Colbear is the leader of them all. If you don't watch "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, this paragraph probably sounds ludicrous. I should explain that Stephen T. Colbert, like yours truly, was saddled with a despised bear-related childhood nickname, simply because of his last name. Obviously, he was more deeply scarred than I, and it might seem disrespectful to use the Colbear name. On the other hand, it's funny. Colbert would understand.
The best email I received was from Travis Thompson, who donated the bear to the Habitat for Humanity silent auction where I found my new love. Travis revealed the bear's former name, Orphan Bear, and his back story:
"Believe it or not, he came to Maui from Chicago, where he grew up. He arrived on a United Airlines flight, as checked baggage (Travis' nephew is a United pilot). Ali & I found him sitting in the passenger seat of my car when we returned from a recent trip. Unfortunately, I already had a companion bear, much, much smaller, who accompanies me everywhere I drive. There was no bear love between the two, so we put the Orphan up for adoption."
So I finally have my Chicago bear. I'm naming him Stephen P. Colbear. The "P" stands for Payton, in a nod to my favorite Chicago Bear. I've nicknamed him Sweetness, of course. Grin and bear it, Colbert.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.