Excerpts from Fall 1958 Edition
There Nina was, running down the street with her long black hair flying in tangled disorder around her face. The day was cold and damp, and grey clouds swiftly scudded across the sky. She wore her little red coat, the one she liked the best of all; but her mother always had said that it was too short. Then she stopped to pick up some leaves. She was a thin girl with delicate features. Large, blue eyes framed with thick lashes produced a striking effect against her olive skin. One could see that she was a very beautiful child, but her expression resembled that of a startled bird ready to fly at a moment's notice. Held tightly in her thin arms was a small, stuffed bear. Although it appeared all lumpy and out of shape, she clutched it as if it were her only and most prized possession.
Nina lived in that large stone house on the hill. Mrs. Bradley, Nina's mother, was a prominent social figure in the town and gave frequent parties with a great many guests. Although she was very successful with people her own age, she never had been able to communicate very well with Nina, so consequently, she had left everything up to Nina's nurse, Mrs. Thompson. Nina liked her nurse well enough, but she was rather old and sometimes startled Nina with unexpected outbursts of motherly affection which Nina wasn't used to. This only served to strengthen Nina's attachment to her bear. To her the bear was a real friend, always ready to do things with her and never too busy to listen as her mother was.
One day while she had been walking in the park near her home she had found this bear. All excited, she had taken it home and shown it to her mother, but she had said to get rid of it for it was dirty. However, Nina's nurse, sensing how much this bear meant to her, had retrieved it from the trash and washed it. Oh, how happy Nina had been when she found it on her bed!
From that day on she never was without it except when she went to school. This, then, was Nina, a small, lonely girl, lost in a large house with no other playmates than one ragged, brown bear.
Having picked up some pretty yellow leaves, she continued on her solitary journey down the street. The section of town that she was in was rather far from her own home but near the bridge where she liked to come to look at the river. Upon the bridge, by standing on the railing, she could lean over and see the water. There she stood, busily cropping her leaves one by one down to lay on the dark, swirling surface like bright coins on velvet. Farther and farther she leaned over the railing in an effort to follow the progress of her leaves, when suddenly out of her grasp fell her beloved bear. In silent horror she watched her most precious possession drop with a dull splash into the blackness and then sink from sight. Staring at the place where her bear had disappeared just a moment before, she wrung her small hands and bit her lips; but no tears came to her eyes, for Nina had never cried. Suddenly she turned and raced for home. Having closed the front door softly, she tiptoed to her room so no one would hear. She sat on the edge of her bed for a while without moving and then heard Mrs. Thompson calling her to supper.
Sitting at the table with Mrs. Thompson, Nina ate nothing, but just sat holding her head in her left hand and pushing the food around her plate with her fork. Upon asking what was the matter, the nurse received a "nothing" answer. This listless attitude continued for several days; Nina refused to talk and didn't want to eat. Her nurse tried to tempt her with all sorts of things that she always had liked before, but nothing would rouse Nina from this state of numbness. She never spoke of her bear until one day in desperation her nurse asked her, "What ever became of that nice bear you liked so well?"
"He got drowned," was Nina's toneless reply.
Shocked for the moment at the sobriety of Nina's answer, the nurse missed her chance to question the girl further; for Nina had gone into her room once more and had shut the door with a note of finality. The nurse stood in the hall for a few minutes in an attitude of thought and then went downstairs.
She understood now the reason for Nina's sudden passage into a closed world. She was even more disturbed over Nina than before because now she realized how very serious a loss like that could be to a lonely child. She had never known until now how very much that bear had meant to Nina. With a firm shake of her head, she resolved to have a serious talk with Mrs. Bradley, for it was obvious that Nina's trouble stemmed from her mother's lack of interest.
That night after dinner, she had a long talk with Nina's mother. She was surprised to see how deeply Nina's mother was affected by her story. Mrs. Bradley said she had never realized how much that little bear had meant to her daughter. Long after Mrs. Thompson had left, Nina's mother sat alone in her chair. She now knew what a failure she had been as a mother. It hurt her to see herself in this new light, but she was so disturbed by her daughter's actions that she forced herself to accept the fact that she was at fault. How wrong she had been to leave her only child to the care of another woman! Now she wanted to start anew and really try to get to know her daughter. Oh, but how was she going to go about it? It would be so hard after so long.
The next day found Nina's mother scouring toy stores for one small, brown teddy bear. Finally, when she almost had given up hope, she saw one. It was a little different from the one she remembered that Nina had had, but perhaps Nina wouldn't notice. She quickly drove home and went straight to Nina's room. Having knocked first softly on the door, she hesitantly entered the room. Nina was at her desk reading a book; she turned around and looked at her mother.
"I have brought you something, Nina, which I think you might like," said her mother. "Oh, why 'do I sound so shaky?" she thought to herself; she had never felt so strange and small before. Not knowing what to say now, she thrust the package at Nina. Nina took it and slowly withdrew the present. With an expressionless face, she stared at the bear. Her mother stood expectantly, waiting and hoping for Nina to say that she liked it, but all she said was, "Thank you, it's very nice," and turned again to her book.
Feeling terribly unwanted and let down, Nina's mother left the room and stood in the hall outside the door. She felt strangely like a balloon that had been struck with a pin just then and all the air was rushing out. She had been so sure that everything would be all right as soon as Nina had her bear again. What was she to do now? She was so disappointed. She felt as though she would never know her daughter as other mothers did, never feel that she was needed and wanted.
Later that evening, Nina's door opened and a small face peeped out. It was Nina, and cradled in her arms was the brown bear. Softly she tiptoed to her mother's room and stood outside. Then taking a deep breath, she opened the door. Her mother looked up from her letter-writing and, seeing Nina, smiled a wonderful smile; Nina ran to her. Indeed, this was a happy scene. Nina, crying at last, made up for all the times that she hadn't cried. Her mother realized that this was more wonderful than she ever had dreamed it could be, and all because of a small brown bear which, by the way, had dropped, forgotten, to the floor when her mother had taken Nina into her arms.