Bear-man! Bear-man! cried out the little boy sitting in the back of his mother’s shopping cart. Despite the darkness of the parking lot, the child had correctly identified me as the "bear-man." Yes, I am, in fact, the "bear-man." But the boy’s mother had no clue what her son meant. He gesticulated toward me as if beckoning me to come to him. “What are you saying“, I heard her quiz him? But I knew what he meant. So I approached . “I know what he’s saying,” I said, then I turned to the her boy, perhaps three at most, and said emphatically, “I am the bear-man!” The boy cooed and gripped the handle bar of the shopping cart. I turned to his mother and explained. “I believe he goes to the nursery school at the corner of Lomita and Grand Avenue in El Segundo.” She was truly puzzled, “Yes, how did you know?”
I explained, “Your boy and I met a several weeks ago, when I donated a giant stuffed Panda Bear to the school.” I walked into their nap room and found a sea of babies, perhaps forty in all, asleep on their mats, side beside side, watched over by a half dozen care-givers. In a nutshell, they were too perfectly cute. Sleep seemed to permeate the air, all fast asleep, with one exception...this one boy…hers…who stood gripping a long, low plastic fence. He quickly burbled over with joy at my appearance with the giant stuffed toy...this fantastic new thing that I had introduced into his world. His eyes shone with a liquid, dark excitement; he cooed, and burbled, and rocked the fence excitedly. I placed the panda on a heap of similar, but less significant, stuffed toys and departed. Some weeks later I happened to meet one of the caregivers, and she related how much the boy adores the panda and how he rushes immediately to it upon arriving at the school.
It’s remarkable that in the darkness of a parking lot, and over a distance of thirty yards, and several weeks time, he could recognize me. But then there is only one person like me in his world; I am the one, and I am the only “Bear-Man.”