Build-A-Bear, Build-A-Memory

IMG_0092At this point, my boyfriend and I have been dating for nearly eight months. I’d like to think that we’re not “that couple.” At least, I think that we’ve so far managed to avoid what I would consider “gross coupleness.”

When I received the opportunity to write a piece on Build-A-Bear with the expected angle that I go through the complete workshop experience with my boyfriend, my initial thought was, “Oh, he’s gonna hate that.” There was also a small part of me that worried that he might slightly resent me for making him partake in such childishness. Normally, when faced with such thoughts, I turn to introspection and begin wondering why something bothers me. Then it hit me.

Build-A-Bear really hadn’t come into popularity – at least in Louisville – until I was in the seventh or eighth grade, well beyond the age that little boys are expected to have outgrown their need for a stuffed bear. I had decided to name the one teddy bear I ever owned Brown Bear. Very creative, I know. I realized then that there was a small part of me that missed him or at least the innocence and imagination he symbolized.

IMG_0100With that newfound self-awareness and a remarkably good sport of a boyfriend in tow, I stepped into the Build-A-Bear Workshop in the Paddock Shopping Center. Any misgivings I still had almost immediately evaporated upon meeting the bubbly and genuine Morgan Bitel, that location’s store manager.

She patiently guided us through the process, the first step of which was to select the base skin for the animal we wanted to create. Now, I’d never set foot in a Build-A-Bear before, so the options were a little overwhelming at first. I recognized several licensed properties immediately such as “Star Wars,” “Pokemon,” Disney and “How to Train Your Dragon.” There were other properties that I wasn’t familiar with as well – such as Paw Patrol – that were for younger audiences.

My eyes immediately latched onto the Star Wars apparel. Full disclosure: I’m unapologetically geeky, but I didn’t suggest it because this was something we were supposed to be doing as a couple. And it was for work after all. Imagine my genuine surprise and relief when my boyfriend said, “Let’s do Poe and Finn from ‘Star Wars’!”

“Really?” I asked, thinking it had to be too good to be true. “Yeah, I’d do that for you,” he replied earnestly. It was then that I realized that we were teetering on the edge of “gross coupleness,” and I didn’t care. With that decision out of the way, the rest easily fell into place. We picked different but generic bear skins and placed a button that would generate the “Star Wars” theme when pushed in both. Next, we filled our bears with polyester stuffing. I was so taken with everything that I didn’t even care when I was asked to administer a hug test to my bear to determine the adequacy of its cuddliness. Just so you know, my bear passed with flying colors.

TVT_0952The most ritualistic step in the process is placing a heart in your animal – it actually beats if you press the button! First, you rub it between your hands because “you can’t put cold hearts in your friend.” You place the heart on your head to make the animal smart, you place it by your ears to make it a good listener and you make a big wish. I won’t tell you mine. Everybody knows that if you do that, your wish doesn’t come true! We also had the choice to give the animal a scent, but both my boyfriend and I decided to opt out of that step.

Next we “bathed” our bears at an imaginary bathtub. It really consisted of blow-drying and brushing the bears, but I can see how it would be a fun activity for an imaginative child and their parents. After that, we dressed the bears in Poe and Finn gear, complete with blaster and lightsaber – the blaster blasts and the lightsaber whirs and lights up! Each bear is also microchipped, so after registering them in the Build-A-Bear database, we could rest assured that Poe DamBearon and Finnamon (Finn A. for short) Bear could be returned safely to us if lost.

Finally, we received birth certificates for our bears, and I left completely satisfied and inexplicably happy, like I’d met an old friend in an unlikely place. I’m not sure who gets which bear yet as I don’t want my boyfriend to be too jealous of Poe DamBearon, but we had a lot of fun. It was an activity I’m sure will serve as a memory to look back on fondly for some time to come. VT