Saturday, August 27, 2011

Artifact #4: Teddy's Dreams

Teddy's Dreams: An Artifact from Jack Walsh

My first attempt at storytelling was a series of books (I called them books at the time; they are, at most, five pages long) called Teddy's Dreams. And they feature Teddy, who is either a teddy bear or a real bear. I don't remember which.

I think these date from when I was about five and a half. I would draw the pictures and then dictate accompanying text to my Mom, who wrote it in crayon. My 93-year-old grandmother was looking at these recently and said, "You had such good handwriting when you were a child."

In most of these, Teddy is doing something fairly exciting or adventurous or interesting. In the accompanying images we see him galloping in on a periwinkle horse (I remember being very taken with the periwinkle crayon for a while) to rescue a captive princess. Then he does some football stuff with the football (this was the depth of my understanding of the sport then; it is marginally deeper now) and goes for a ride on his shiny new moped (presumably, Teddy was not a drunk who had lost his license, which was frequently the safe assumption in rural Appalachia). This book ends with Teddy kicking back to eat some honey. It should be noted that every book ends with Teddy eating honey. I'm not sure if this was intended to be Teddy's ultimate dream or, rather, Teddy's ongoing reality.

Looking at these now, it seems Teddy's Dreams was perhaps a means for me to work out my future "when I grow up" aspirations with Teddy as my on-page proxy. The most obvious and little-boy-stereotypical are Teddy as policeman, firefighter, and army helicopter pilot. There are some where the appeal seems less obvious, most notably Teddy working a cash register under the caption "Teddy the Grocery Bear."

The attention paid to some details over others is interesting. “Teddy Doing Arithmetic” is mostly an ill-defined blob of brown, but despite the laziness of the color palette, I nevertheless took the time to include not only a cutaway of Teddy working out 2 + 2 but also a wall-mounted portrait of Teddy’s blonde bear girlfriend.

While almost every page of Teddy's Dreams is a stand-alone tableau, there is an exception. In one book, set mostly on a raft at sea, I experimented with an actual linear narrative that went like this:

Page 1: Teddy is seasick.

Page 2: Teddy is more seasick

Page 3: Teddy is most seasick.

Page 4: Teddy is well and at Adventure-Land.

Page 5: Teddy eating honey.

That ending practically wrote itself.

Jack Walsh read at "True Story!" #7 in December 2010. Want to share an artifact of your own and the story that goes with it? Send it to truestoryga(at)gmail(dot)com.

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