Can I still grow up and be a Berenstain Bear?

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FILE - Jan. 25, 2011 file photo, Janice Berenstain displays a copy of the first book, left, she and husband, Stanley Berenstain, created and the second book, which was the first to actually call the characters Berenstain Bears, in Solebury, Pa. Jan Berenstain, who with her husband Stan created the Berenstain Bears books that have charmed preschoolers and their parents for 50 years, has died. Her son Mike Berenstain said she died Feb. 24, 2012. She was 88. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

By Travis Mayfield

When I was very young I believed that someday my family would live in a treehouse and we’d call each other, mama, papa, brother and sister.

In that wildly imaginative way only a child can dream I believed we could become the Berenstain Bears.

I believed that because that is how much I loved those bears and the adventures they had in the series of books I obsessively collected.

Truthfully, I also believed there was a real chance I might grow up and be a killer whale too. But what can I say, I dreamed big!

Still I was left pondering those memories as I read yesterday about the death of the co-creator of the Berenstain Bears, Jan Berenstain. 

Jan died of a stroke at the age of 88. Her husband and co-creator Stan died in 2005.

While the Berenstain children are already running the cottage industry that sprung up over the decades surrounding the lovable family of bruins, that ‘industry’ can never be the same without the original Mama and Papa bear in the lead.

So it was with true sadness that I turned over my memories and bear family aspirations.

“I will never love anything again with the same zeal and boyhood innocence as I love those books,” I told my little sister.

And that is a fact. 

I’ve lived too long. 

I’ve seen too much. 

I know I can never live in that treehouse and no matter how much I may imagine it, I’ll never become Brother Bear.

Stan and Jan were as much a part of my childhood as the other biggies like Richard Scarry and Dr. Suess. Yet it is their books I have always dreamed about and longed to be a part of.

I looked at the affable and laughable pickles the Berenstain clan found themselves in and I saw my family. I saw our trips to the dentist, our struggle with materialism and even the looming threat of peer pressure. 

No family will ever replace the one created by Stan and Jan (even as a child I knew them by name and considered them my playmates).

Yet there is a child who doesn’t know the innocent joy of the Berenstain Bears and I know for a fact that I will be the one to make the introduction.

That child is the one my husband and I are planning for in the coming few years.

Son or daughter it doesn’t matter, I cannot wait to take my child onto my lap and open that very first Berenstain Bear book.

I cannot wait to read the words out loud and play the parts with my voice of Papa, Mama, Sister and of course my kindred…Brother.

Jan Berenstain and her husband Stan gave me something incredibly special as a child and it wasn’t just the world of fancy I am left remembering today.

No the Berenstains gave me an unbreakable connection with my own parents who took me onto their laps and read to me until I in turn could take the latest book from their hands and read it to them.

I’ll miss you Jan with all of the innocence still left in my heart, but you’ll live on in our home for a long time to come.

Unfortunately, I’m 99.9% sure that dream of becoming a killer whale isn’t coming true.

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