The moment I saw the Craigslist posting last night, I was lost. It read:
Antique Polar Bear Lawn Decoration This was a gift from a neighbor who was moving to a tropical climate in which he would not fit her new decor! She fell in love with him in a French ice cream shop over 30 years ago and had him shipped to the States. He has moved with her throughout the mid-west since. When she moved she left him with us. He would be great in a restaurant, ice-cream shop or as a school mascot. He is aprox. 4′ tall and heavy! A two person move for sure! Cash only please.
There was a lopsided picture of the bear, sitting forlornly outside, dead leaves gathered at his paws. He was a little dirty, and one of his bottom paws was mutilated, but he was special and I just needed to make him mine. The asking price of $50 seemed completely reasonable to me. But I would need help retrieving him, and my husband maybe should have a say in such a matter. So I showed him the listing. Absent-mindedly (he was watching a baseball game at the time) he said, sure, okay. Good enough! I contacted the owners immediately. They said the bear was still available and that we could pick him up either Saturday or Sunday.
In the cold light of morning, my husband was dismayed. Dismayed that I hadn’t bargained when I contacted the owners, hadn’t even tried. He wasn’t saying no, mind you, but I knew it would bug him eternally if we paid the full asking price. I emailed the owner once again, explaining that my husband was needing a bit of convincing and that a price drop would probably seal the deal. Would she take $40? She would! My husband was satisfied and so off we went.
I am ridiculously pleased. I don’t, however, plan on using him as a garden decoration. He’s now an indoor bear. My polar bear is ceramic, quite heavy, and very handsome. And, according to stamps on his insides on the bottom, he really is French. One, in English, read, “Made in France” while a second one read “Produit de Normandie” or something along those lines? I don’t speak French and he’s so heavy that I just don’t feel like lifting him again right now to confirm, so that’s probably not spelled correctly or is grammatically displeasing or somehow incorrect. (It’s really a 3 person job to move the bear, except that he is such an awkward shape.) Nevertheless, with that inscription, we even know what region of France he’s from!
I can’t help wondering how old he is. I’m thinking kind of old. Supposedly, he was shipped here 30 years ago, and I suspect he wouldn’t have been new then. And making a bear of his size out of ceramic seems costly —that’s a lot of clay, and you’d lose so many in the kiln while firing, I’d think. And he’s pretty detailed. An ice cream shop would find cement or fiberglass a more cost-effective way to make an advertising figure like this, no? So maybe he was made before the fiberglass technology got refined? Or maybe that’s just a very American material and the French are still popping out giant ceramic advertising figures to this day? I’d love to know more.
He strikes me as a boy bear, so I thought “Bernard Blanc” nodded suitably to both his bear-ness and his French heritage. However, apparently the owner’s children had been calling him Aurora. In a weird coincidence, we’re supposed to have a great shot at seeing the Northern Lights in our area tonight. So maybe the bear is a she and I should call her Ursula Borealis? Aurora Bearealis? Decisions, decisions…
Luckily, the pups seem mostly to be ignoring the bear. One of our cats is pretty fascinated and seems to want to climb him. I’ll take it.