My Little Sister came downstairs on Saturday morning and stood in the kitchen doorway with a strange expression on her face. It could best be described as her looking at me, expecting a particular reaction.
It took me a while (it was still early and I hadn’t imbibed my first mug of coffee of the day) then I saw what she was holding, tucked protectively under one arm.
“It’s Panda!” I cried. What a good thing it was, I thought later, that Panda was called, well, Panda and not some outlandish name which I might have forgotten
from a distance of something like 65 years.
It was, indeed, my Little Sister’s much-loved Panda, a constant companion in her early years and hence
in mine too. Wherever we went (and we were always together) Panda came too. On closer inspection, it was clear that Panda had suffered much over the years. To start with, his head was extremely floppy, probably on account of always being carried about with
my Little Sister’s loving fingers round his neck. One of his original eyes was intact, but the other was a small white button, sewn on by our dear mum at some point when poor Panda needed urgent eye surgery. On another occasion our ever-resourceful mother
had switched from ophthalmologist to chiropodist, replacing non-existent paws with some kind of cream cotton, now almost threadbare. Where once Panda was black and white - panda-coloured, you might say - now he was a kind of grubby brown colour in between
black patches. He was a sorry sight.
Worst of all, he only had one ear. Where his left ear should have been was a large hole from which ancient straw sprouted.
Did I remember how that happened, my Little Sister asked me. I shook my head, mutely, recognising that whatever the incident, it had remained burned in my sister’s memory forever after.
Quite literally, as it turned out. I was reminded that one Guy Fawkes Night, many, many years ago, poor Panda had ventured too close to the bonfire and caught his ear alight. It was amazing, I thought, that he hadn’t gone up
in flames like the guy on the bonfire. Poor, poor Panda.
On our Family Zoom later that day, my Little Sister told the Rascally Trio that she had something to “Show
and Tell”, producing Panda with something of a flourish. It isn’t easy, you know, for a Panda with a floppy head, one good eye and straw where one of his ears should be to make an entrance - but Panda is that kind of bear, one with Real Presence.
Why else is he still so special so many decades since he was in his Panda Prime. Possibly because of his somewhat grubby fur, the Trio didn’t immediately identify him as a panda, but as a teddy. This despite the fact that Young Faris has a giant
panda of his own, a present from Mr B and me on his birth, a nod to the giant panda that my mum and dad gave Faris’s mamma when she was born.
My Little Sister
has written to The Repair Shop to see if Panda might be considered a Suitable Case for Treatment. She tells me that in a heart-felt application she set out Panda’s story, his importance to her childhood, the love bestowed on him up to the present day,
the fact that even now he sits in her bedroom, his wobbly head propped up so that he can still keep guard on her, as he did in her childhood, with the help of his one ear and his one eye. Sadly, unless he had lost his ear in a wartime battle, while taking
a bullet for his soldier boy owner, I fear his story might not pack the emotional punch required in order to make an appearance on one of my favourite TV shows.
of course, for my Little Sister…