Whenever I see someone with their hand in a trashcan the first thing that happens is I say “Teddy!”
Then everyone around me looks at me like I’m crazy. Luckily this usually happens at home. And they only look at me like that because they don’t know who Teddy is. If they did, they would understand completely why I say that and they wouldn’t go digging in the stinking trash can anymore!
They would also understand why it is that it took until I was almost 50 years old to buy my first pair of red shoes.
The town I grew up in had an unusual amount of …..let’s say “unique” people in it. Teddy was one of those unique people. Teddy was not homeless. He was just more of an outside person than most folks were. He found most of the things he wanted in waste baskets and trash cans throughout town. At anytime you might find him rummaging through a trashcan in the park, or in front of a business downtown. Even occasionally inside one of the local businesses. Teddy just plain liked trash. He firmly believed that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When he got done rummaging and had taken what he wanted out of any particular place, he would transfer it to the basket on his bicycle and ride on to see what might be lurking about in the next trash receptacle.
Everyone in town knew Teddy. He had a home, that’s where he took all that stuff to. What he did with it, we had no idea. I’m not sure we ever even wondered. Teddy was Teddy and he did what he did. He had done it as long as any of us could remember. We never thought to wonder why.
Teddy did have one little twitch though. Teddy had a thing for red shoes. Any red shoes. If Teddy spied you wearing red shoes, he was going to try to chase you down to get them! I’m not sure if Teddy liked red shoes or if he hated red shoes. But it was surely RED SHOES that caught his attention. And he meant to have them if he could. Us kids couldn’t wear our red ball jets gym shoes to town if Teddy was around. And if we did, we had to keep an eye out for Teddy the whole time we were there.
Occasionally someone would forget, or the odd tourist would come through who didn’t know and then the show was on! Oh Lord that Teddy would just get ALL het up! Agitated and flustacated! He would run after her if his bicycle was too far away. He would chase after the poor screaming woman, all bent over with his crabby hands all bent and reaching for those red shoes! Locals would line up on the sidewalk and hoot and holler at Teddy. If it was a local woman who just misjudged, she would fly down the sidewalk laughing and squealing, but knowing that no real harm was going to come to her. If it happened to be some unfortunate tourist in town for some summer fun, well, her story bank was fixing to get a huge deposit! With interest! She would take off like she was running through hell in gasoline britches. Screaming for all she was worth! And Teddy dead on her heels just a grabbin for those red shoes.
In the end, the women would either come out of the shoes and let Teddy have em, or else someone would stop Teddy and tell him he couldn’t chase the red shoes in town any more and he would grumble a bit, take a last longing look at the shoes and go back about his business. Casting glances back over his shoulder at the shoes until they were no longer in sight. All that was left then was the next trash can.
Teddy usually chased at least one pair of red shoes a summer. It was a rare occurrence during my childhood. Often enough to be expected, but not often enough to be common. Mostly Teddy was the trash can man. And if someone caught you going after something you accidentally tossed in the trash that you didn’t mean to, you were in for it! So you better make sure that that winning lottery ticket was going to be worth the months of ribbing you were gonna get for diggin in that trashcan, Teddy!
So, this is what rolls through my mind whenever I see one of my kids, or My Dearest Husband rooting around in the trash for something and Teddy comes automatically out of my mouth. There are about 3 people on this earth that I know of for sure that will automatically get this post. The rest will have at least visited the South Western coast of Michigan at some point in the past and spent time in a little tourist town that straddles the Black River to get it.
Strangely enough, I ran into one in Research Triangle Park in Raleigh North Carolina once. She had gone there on vacation with her family when she was just a small child. She looked at me funny when I called myself Teddy for going into the trash for something. But when I said “Blue Moon Ice Cream” she nearly fainted. She started asking me questions about where I was from and when she found out it was the same place she used to vacation, she realized that we had been there at the same time and had played at the same park and probably had spent time with each other those summers she was there. It’s always nice to meet someone from home who understands just how unique it was there. You can talk for hours about it.
And laugh your heads off when you both holler “Teddy!” at someone for digging paper out of a trashcan.