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Friday, August 28, 2015

"The" Teddy

When I was in kindergarten, there was a kid named Teddy who lived in a great big house. His family had a lot of money, and Teddy was quite outspoken. He wasn’t good at sharing, and he snapped at anyone who encroached his surroundings or tried to play with his many things.

That year around Christmastime, the Ideal Toy Company came out with the “It” toy of year. He was a mechanical plastic basset hound that came with its own leash. When you pulled on the leash, all these gears would start grinding, and Gaylord’s battery-operated four legs would start moving, so the dog could actually walk with you. Not very fast, mind you, but you could crawl right beside him. Gaylord also had a magnet hidden in his snout. When you walked him to his steel bone, it would attach to his snout, and it looked like the plastic pup could fetch and carry his own bone in his mouth. Gaylord could even walk backwards. He was totally cool.

Everyone wanted Gaylord. Even I, a cat person, wanted Gaylord. It was like having your very own robot. Gaylord, however, was out of most families’ budgets for toys. And I suppose most parents thought: let’s get him a real dog, or he already has a dog.

So right after Christmas break, our little school van pulled up to Teddy’s mansion, and out pops Teddy with his shiny new Gaylord in tow. At a snail’s pace, they proceeded to the van as we all lined up at the windows to see the actual “It” toy crawling in all his glory. Teddy beamed with pride and ignored the bus driver’s call to “pick up the dog and get on the bus. He was like the new Miss America parading down the runway. Look at me! Look at us! Look at what I have!

Finally, the bus driver got sick of this grandstanding and got out of the bus. Before she could reach Teddy though, he snatched up his pet dog, slipped past the driver and into the van.

“Nobody touches this dog! He’s MY GAYLORD!” He warned us. And the rest of the day, he guarded Gaylord as if he was the president, not letting anyone get near his prized plastic hound. No one was allowed to pull Gaylord’s leash or to walk with him or even get near him. “GET YOUR OWN!” Teddy would yell at anyone approaching his perimeter. Gaylord made this one-day appearance solely to make us jealous and was the star at show and tell that day, although by the time show and tell came around, we had already been shown and told more than we wanted.

Everyone was pretty sore about that Gaylord day. We tried not to show our envy, but Teddy already knew the truth. Teddy never seemed to mind that people hated him, or at the very least, had ill will toward him. He seemed to be happy in his assumption about himself that because he had more he was better and always right.

Teddy was always the attention seeker and a showoff. He picked fights with people and then blamed them for “starting it.” He cried when he didn’t get his way and bullied little girls, using words we’d never heard before. He got in trouble sometimes for interrupting the teacher to voice his opinion, and since all of us at kindergarten were given swimming lessons, Teddy was the first to show off that at age five he had already learned to do a back flip off the side of the pool. The owner of the school warned him, after the first back flip, never to do it again, and he was even paddled for disobeying that order and made to leave the pool and get dressed before swim time was over. He didn’t care. No one else could do a back flip. He never realized that it wasn’t that we couldn’t; it’s just that we wouldn’t.

One day during free swim I wandered into the deep end and looked down at the drain. There was someone down there, but they weren’t moving. He had black hair like Teddy. I called out to the school owner that someone was stuck down on the drain.

What happened after that was a blur. A man dived down to the bottom of the pool, and someone else yelled, “Everyone get out of the pool NOW” I watched adults jerk kids out of the pool by their arms. I saw the diver rise out of the water with unconscious Teddy, and I remember an ambulance coming and taking him off.

Later we learned that someone had seen Teddy do a back flip again, and apparently he banged his noggin on the side of the pool and was knocked unconscious and sank down to the bottom of the pool. No one talked about karma back then, but I don’t think I was the only one who thought he had it coming.

Teddy lived to tell about both the incident and all the presents he had gotten while he was in the hospital.

I think sometime afterward we got lectured again to remind us that back diving and “sailor diving” (where you dive into the pool head first with no arms over your head) were strictly prohibited, and that anyone caught doing that would lose their pool privileges for the remainder of the year.

There was no reward for the kid who discovered the little brat lying on the bottom of the pool. No thank-you letter from Teddy’s parents, certainly no Gaylord reward. We kind of just went about our business, continuing to hate Teddy for being rich, arrogant and a show-off.

I never knew what happened to Teddy. He probably grew up and went to private school and became successful and as rich as his parents. I scoured Google and Facebook without success to find him.

But when I was watching the Republican debate last week and saw Donald Trump shrugging, making faces, blaming others, calling people names and insisting the world revolved around him, I thought: Teddy. This is what Teddy turned into.

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