This Moment of Bliss is brought to you by: acceptance & a happy child.
I’ve worked a lot of odd jobs (thank you, manic tendencies) in my 23 years; in fact I’ve worked at 18 different employers. Of the numerous shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels I’ve worked at, by far one of my most memorable employers was Build-A-Bear Workshop.
A lot of memories weren’t fantastic. I had to cover up my tattoos with Ace bandage wraps, which looked more like I was covering up self harm scars because of my tattoo placement (this caused a lot of concern with parents).The main coworker I worked with hated the parties we would throw, so more often than not I had to cover her shift parties, which took a lot of energy, smiling, and singing (okay, I lied, I actually loved this part). I also had to take a 2 hour (or longer) bus ride from my apartment to the mall; which if I had a car would really have taken not even 10 minutes.
But perhaps the worst part of working at BABW was the close minded parents.
It was always the same. A little boy would come into the shop, and we would show him the collection of all the bears in our collection, usually trying to steer them towards the parents budget. The boys eyes would light up at the sight of a pink bear, or something deemed too “girly.” The parent would throw the bearskin back in its bin, scolding the child for their choice. The boy would pick out something else, come to the stuffing machine (where the bear comes to life), and a light would vanish from his eyes. Some of the boys wouldn’t even want to do the heart ceremony; each and every bear gets their very own heart. Bear builders would ask the kids to do a series of things to give the bear a great personality; run in place so the bear is fast, smile hard so the bear is always happy etc. If the child was unenthused after a parents rejection I would usually make the parents do the ceremony and make it as embarrassing as possible in front of the store (hey, I never said I wasn’t petty). It broke my heart daily to see the light die out from these little boys eyes.
The Boy With The Rainbow Bear (simply “The Boy” throughout this article came during our My Little Pony sale (side note, any Bear Builder will agree that My Little Pony’s were the absolute worst thing to stuff, with their floppy necks and difficult limbs). The store was a little crowded, but it was later in the shift so I was a little more relaxed. I watched The Boy walk in, he was dressed up nice in a checkered shirt and khakis. His giant brown eyes seemed to be the size of saucers when he glanced over the store. He had a contagious grin that I quickly caught, and to my delight I was assigned to be his helper. He skimmed over all the bears, picking them up, examining intensely.
Then, he picked up the rainbow bear. He hugged the bearskin tight; it was the most loving hug I’ve ever seen. My heart dropped; the moment that always happened was about to break The Boys heart. He showed his mom.
And she simply nodded.
There was no argument to him looking at other bears, there was no redirection to really check out all the animals. Just a nod.
He ran to the stuffing machine, as I followed closely behind. I was in disbelief. He told me it was his very first time at BABW, and that he always dreamed of the day he would come to the shop. We laughed, we danced, we sang songs together. I made his bear, helped him pick out a wardrobe, named his bear and sent him on his way.
Before leaving with his mother, The Boy urged me to come close, and whispered softly. If Build-a-Bear was Wonderland, you’d be my Alice.
I remember gushing to my coworkers over The Boys adorable words, and great attitude, but it was the bus ride home that had me really thinking. Sometimes acceptance (even if it’s not acknowledging someone is different) can be the key to happiness. My heart was full that day, and to be honest, is whenever I think of The Boys big brown eyes, and toothy grin.