It is with great pleasure - and a tiny bit of embarrassment - that I announce the arrival of a new addition to my household. I'd introduce you, but I don't know his name yet.
Until my husband passed away in April 2007, I had never lived alone. When Barry died, I was surprised to discover that, apart from missing him, I actually enjoyed having the house to myself. Six and a half years later, I still do. And it still surprises me.
Growing up as an only child, I spent many happy hours amusing myself with games, books, daydreams and playacting. But at night, I was a scaredy-cat. The vivid imagination that served me so well in the daytime became my enemy at bedtime. I'd try not to think about the demon-possessed dolls in my closet and monsters lurking under my bed, but they always won. I couldn't fall asleep without my mother lying next to me. I'm not going to tell you how old I was when my parents finally broke me of that habit.
In my "Death Comedy Jam," written and performed a year and a half into widowhood, I talked about the unexpected pleasures of a solo household: Everything is where I left it, the toilet seat is always down, and no one complains of the smell when I eat cuttlefish and mochi crunch. At the time, I conceded that I might feel differently after a few years, once the novelty wore off.
Well, it's been five, and I don't. Friends have started suggesting that I get a pet, since I am clearly not interested in acquiring a human housemate. But even the most low-maintenance pet would require more time and effort than I'm able to give. I really like living alone.
Then I saw him. It was love at first sight. I was emceeing the Habitat for Humanity golf tournament luncheon and saw him sitting alone against the wall. I'm not usually attracted to his type, but something about him drew me to his side. Maybe it was the vintage aloha shirt he wore, too small to button across his enormous belly. Once I stroked his fuzzy cheek, I just had to have him.
He's irresistibly huggable and never stops smiling. He's 6 inches shorter than I, and more than twice as wide, a giant, cuddly teddy bear. Literally. He's the best silent auction purchase I've ever made. And the perfect housemate.
Teddy bears were never my thing, though I've kept two very special ones that were given to my son when he was a baby. And I do have a small collection of miniature souvenir bears bought in the airports I've passed through on storytelling tours.
But I do seem to have a lifelong association with bears. I was born in Chicago, so I've always cheered for the NFL Bears. As an alumna of H.P. Baldwin High School, I am a proud Baldwin Bear. My maiden name is Yogi, so my grade school classmates used to call me Yogi Bear. When I complained to my father, he told me, "Just tell them you're 'smaaarter than the average bear!' "
I didn't appreciate his advice at the time. In fact, I think the relentless teasing caused my childhood aversion to stuffed bears. But now I am embracing my bear connection. And my bear. As I write this column, we are together in bed, with my back propped against his tummy and his legs serving as armrests. He's actually looking over my shoulder at my notebook.
Now I just need to name him. I've considered Yogi, H.P., and Daddy Bear, but none of those seems quite right. Your suggestions are welcome, but please hurry, as I feel I must decide soon.
Right now I'm leaning toward Stephen Colbear, in honor of comedian Colbert and his hilarious obsession with "BEARS!" Apparently he, too, suffered merciless schoolyard teasing about his name, pronounced in the French way. Perhaps, if I Facebook this, we'll get a mention on "The Colbert Report" or, better yet, an invitation to appear. I think that even Stephen would have to admit that my new roomie is adorable, almost unbearably so.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.