The Birthday Bear

By Diane Stark

I went to the mall to buy you a birthday present, but the lady at the store was really rude to me,” my husband said as he came home from work on my 24th birthday, just a few days before Thanksgiving.

“She was rude?” I said, struggling to stand up as my enormously pregnant belly weighed me down.

He reached out a hand to help me. “At first, she was helpful and nice, but the more we talked, the ruder she got. By the time I paid for the gift, she was treating me like I was a criminal or something.”

“What did you talk about?”

“Well, I went to the collectibles store to buy you one of those teddy bear figurines you like,” he said. “I saw a cute one on the very top shelf, so I pointed at it and told her I needed to buy it for my very pregnant wife for her birthday. The lady smiled and told me what a sweet husband I was. But as soon as she saw which bear I was buying, her whole demeanor changed. She shook her head and acted like I was gum on her shoe.”

I shook my head. “That’s so weird.”

“It was really uncomfortable, so I tried to make things better by talking to her. I told her what a trooper you’ve been throughout this pregnancy. I told her about that screening test and how it said that there might be something wrong with the baby, but it turned out they’d entered in your age incorrectly, which made the test produce a false positive.”

“Wow, you told her our whole life story.”

“Like I said, I was trying to make it less awkward, but it didn’t work. When I told her we didn’t think anything would be wrong with the baby because you’re so young, she looked like she’d just sucked on a lemon. Then she asked me how old I was. When I told her I was 24, her disdain grew even more.” He shrugged. “So I just kept talking. I told her that even though you had morning sickness, you hadn’t missed a single day of school throughout the entire pregnancy.”

I nodded. “That’s because writing plans for a substitute teacher is almost as much work as just going to school and teaching my class myself.”

“Yeah, but that part seemed to make her mad too. She just stared at me and shook her head. I was so happy to finally get your present and get out of there.”

“Speaking of my present, can I have it now?”

He went into the kitchen and returned with a bag. “Sorry it’s not wrapped. In the beginning, when the lady was still being nice, she offered to gift-wrap it, but when her demeanor changed, I didn’t want to be there any longer than I absolutely had to.”

He handed it to me. Carefully, I opened the box and saw an adorable teddy bear figurine, sitting on a blanket beside a birthday cake. I looked a little closer and burst out laughing.

“Don’t you like it?” He asked, clearly hurt.

Without speaking, I turned the figurine around to face him so he could read the writing on the birthday cake.

“Happy Sweet 16,” he read out loud. “I didn’t notice that part in the store.” His confused look slowly turned to horror as he realized why the lady’s demeanor had changed. “That lady thought I was a 24-year-old man having a baby with a 16-year-old girl.”

I giggled. “A 16-year-old girl who hasn’t missed a day of her sophomore year because of morning sickness.”

He slapped his palm on his forehead. “No wonder she treated me like I was a criminal. Someone my age having a baby with a 16-year-old actually is a crime.”

I couldn’t stop laughing. “You should go back and buy another bear after the baby is born. Just to see what she says.”

“I’m never stepping foot in that store again.” He grimaced. “Except to exchange that bear for a different one, I guess.”

I hugged the figurine to me. “No way. I’m keeping it. It makes for a great story, which I can’t wait to share around the Thanksgiving table.”

He shook his head. “This is so embarrassing.”

“It’s too funny not to tell people,” I insisted. Telling that story was the highlight of my Thanksgiving that year. Usually it’s my mom’s awesome cooking, but I could hardly eat any of her delicious food because of the seven-pound baby crowding my stomach and making me feel full after just a few bites.

It was totally worth it though. Two weeks later, our baby boy was born, healthy and perfect.

And his two 24-year-old parents had never been prouder.

Or more grateful.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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2 Responses to “The Birthday Bear”

  1. I laughed aloud at that story! Very funny!

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Such a guy thing and very funny. My honey would do the exact thing.

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