"Yeah - hon, what...?" Mom said while probably making a bed, or tossing laundry in the washer.
"What is a Crusty Bear?"
"A crusty bear? Wha - huh? I don't know what you're talking about."
"When we were at church, someone was talking about their crusty bear, and I just wanted to know what it was."
You love to be the Font of All Knowledge for your kids, but sometimes they come at you sideways and you need a little context...
"Uh, um, what did they say about it?"
"They said, 'Its my Crusty Bear.'" and then they said how it was hard.
Thank heavens for inspiration. "OHHHHH! You mean 'Cross To Bear,' Is that what they said?" I think my sister was totally thrown by the new syntax. She wasn't expecting some idiom, she wanted to know about this bear, which is apparently crusty, and how to care for such things. And if it is a really cool bear, where do you get one?
The phrase comes from scripture, and it was such a significant event that everyone mentioned it. Matthew, Mark, Luke AND John. We'll borrow from Luke, the physician, since Drs tend to be anal in content and to the point: Luke 23:26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
So this poor guy is visiting Jerusalem for a little Passover Vaycay, checking out his "Jerusalem On 20 Mites a Day" guide, and suddenly a big hulking Roman soldier says, "Hey YOU! You with the GUIDE! GETOVAH HERE!" And the next thing he knows, he's haulin' a couple of rail road ties down the middle of a ridiculously crowded Main Street, through a screaming, spitting, hoard - next to a guy that looks like he has had a truly rough night. And that is how you get a Crusty Bear. You had other plans, and you were happily going about your business when, BAM! Suddenly things are a lot harder.
Crusty Bears come in all shapes and sizes, but I think everyone acquires the initial matched set of Fuzzy Fear, Deeply Disappointed Bear, Health Carebear, and Outta the Blue Bear. (Yes that sounds lame, but I'm typing this with a kid on my lap - there isn't a lot of time for editing, ok!)
Parents DO worry. Its in our nature. As I was sitting at a stop light, and thinking about what a therapist had told me about my son, and how he gets "flooded" with emotions that leads to lashing out, and will possibly need counseling, I didn't notice the light turn green. The jeep behind me honked, and I snapped to, and started driving. The car switched lanes, and as I looked out my window to give a visual apology to the driver, the girl in the back seat looked at me, and stuck out her tongue. My apologetic look evaporated.
I would like to say that I had compassion, and thought to myself, "Oh, she's probably having a hard day too..." but I had THE strongest urge, to get behind this car and honk LOUDLY at every stop light that turned green, until one of us had to turn. "That'll learn you some compassion, you little snot-nosed brat!" It was more a decision process of trying to figure out if it was worth scaring the pants off that little so-and-so twit while also annoying the poor drivers around me that didn't get her salute. "She's young, " I thought. "You may think I am the worst person on the road, but honey, I KNOW what my crusty bears are. Yours are still waiting for you..." Then I went back to trying to figure out where my son gets these lashing out tendencies. Probably from his fathers side. I dunno, we don't always have a clear view of ourselves "in the round." Maybe it is experience, and getting a good look at others crusty bear collections, that helps us to have a bit more tolerance. And makes us better detectives for the crusty bears of others that are barely perceptible.
I didn't have to pull out too much of my own bear collection, and I'm grateful for that. Sometimes, the only purpose of knowing about a collection is the comfort that you don't have some of the bears that others have. But in another way, I also know that people - in general - would also be kinder if we knew all the crusty bears each of us is having to deal with.
No one is exempt from this. I think of someone like Saint Joseph raising his kid. You'd think it would be easy. Unless, as I imagine it, Joseph had seen things going a different way, "Mary - Jesus is out crying in the yard again. I swear! He boobs at the drop of the hat! The Knish boy shot down a sparrow for target practice, and Jesus just falls apart, boo hooing like he made the darn thing! And then he cries because I look disappointed. I don't know what we're gonna do with him - really I don't. Public school is OUT of the question. Maybe we should just make out like your hippy cousin and go raise him in the wilderness! Let him get all weird like his cousin John! Wander around in his skivvies and go diggin' for honey! Oy! This is NOT what I had planned... Of all the blended families, in all the history that EVER was or that EVER will be, I got THIS one! My boy wouldn't be like this. He'd be a freakin' rock star, baba ganoush!"
Disappointment Crusty Bear can be awful. But, in hind site, getting crusty bears isn't all that awful though. We grow in compassion from our collection. We cry, suffer, and lift up our tear stained eyes away from the mirror of self pity to notice that there is someone else out there who is also suffering, and could use a little bit of shoulder rubbing, and kindness from those who know what its like. Dang it, this sucks. I'm so sorry you got THAT crusty bear. I'd take it from you if I could. You weren't looking for this. You were just thrown into a situation by virtue of the fact that you were there at that time, and place. Scripture doesn't tell us what happened to ole Simon, but if he inquired about the guy next to him, he would have known that the weight of the cross he was carrying was nothing next to the weight of the cross that the man next to him bore. And I don't think he would have stuck his tongue out. And that, I think, is the lesson.