Not long ago and not far away there was a beautiful, big teddy bear who sat on a shelf in a drug store waiting for someone to buy him and give him a home.
His name was Wolstencroft. And he was no ordinary bear.
His fur was a lovely shade of light grey, and he had honey colored ears, nose and feet. His eyes were warm and kind and he had a wonderfully wise look on his face.
Wolstencroft looked very smart in a brown plaid waistcoat with a gold satin bow tie at his neck.
Attached to the tie was a tag with his name written in bold, black letters: Wolstencroft.
He had arrived in the store just before Christmas when there had been a lovely big tree in the window, all decorated with fairy lights. Yards and yards of sparkling tinsel had been draped over everything, and holiday music had been playing all the time. Wolstencroft was especially fond of Jingle Bells. He liked its light, tinkling sounds. It always made him feel merry.
At that time there had been lots of other bears to keep him company. In fact, there had been so many teddy bears crowded onto that one narrow shelf that he had scarcely had room to move.
But, one by one they had all gone. Gleefully waving goodbye as they were carried off to their new homes. Until finally, he was the only teddy bear left in the entire store.
He had hoped that Santa Claus would drop by on Christmas Eve and deliver him to a good home. But he hadn’t. Santa had been too busy that year, delivering even more presents than usual.
Wolstencroft felt sad and lonely sitting there all by himself on the shelf that was high above the Christmas cards. He longed to have a child take him home and love him and play with him. But, most of all, to hug him. For no hug is ever too big for a teddy bear.
He was trying hard not to cry because he knew that tears would make his eyes all puffy and red and then he would have even less chance of finding a home.
But why oh why didn’t someone choose him?
Why, he wondered, was he passed over so many times for other less beautiful bears?
Then one day, shortly before Easter, three bunny rabbits were placed on the shelf beside him.
They all had very big ears and feet and long legs. All three were wearing woolen sweaters.
Rita Rabbit wore a pink sweater. Roger Rabbit a green one. And Ronnie wore blue.
Roger and Ronnie were twins, and Rita was their sister.
“My you are a handsome bear,” Rita told Wolstencroft after the store had closed for the night. “I’m surprised that no one has bought you and taken you home.”
“So am I,” replied Wolstencroft and, although he tried very hard to stop it, a tear rolled down his furry cheek.
Ronnie and Roger had jumped down off the shelf and were playing tag up and down the aisles.
“Be careful and don’t knock anything over,” Rita called to them.
Rita looked closely at Wolstencroft from every angle. She peered into his face and circled around him, her nose twitching. He had noticed that bunnies’ noses twitch a lot. Then she sat down and remained deep in thought for a very long time.
“Well,” he asked her, unable to stand the suspense any longer. “What do you think is wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want to buy me?”
“It must be your name,” Rita answered.
“My name!” exclaimed Wolstencroft. “Why, what’s wrong with my name?”
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with your name,” Rita replied. “Wolstencroft is a wonderful name, but it’s too long for some people to say. Not everyone can pronounce it properly.”
Now Wolstencroft had always been able to say his name correctly. But then, it was his very own name and everyone can say his or her own name. At least he thought that they could. Not when they are very little, of course. He couldn’t say his name when he was a tiny baby bear. But after he had started going to school he knew it very well.
“Wolstencroft,” the teacher would call out. “Will you recite the alphabet for us today?”
And he would name all the letters from A to Z. All 26 of them. He was a very smart bear.
On Easter Sunday, very early just after the store had opened, a Mommy and Daddy bought Roger and Ronnie for their twin boys.
“They look nice,” Rita said. She was happy that her brothers had found a good home but felt sad, too, because she was beginning to miss them already.
At the front of the store a table had been set up with chocolate Easter eggs. And as it was now Easter Sunday, they had been marked down to half price.
After everyone had gone home for the day, Wolstencroft picked the nicest egg he could find and gave it to Rita, to cheer her up.
They shared the egg, sucking on the sweet creamy chocolate and making sure it didn’t get onto their clothes.
Then they started to talk about the name Wolstencroft again.
“I wouldn’t want to change it,” Wolstencroft declared. ” I mean it’s me. I’ve had it all my life.
“But if it’s stopping you from getting a home,” Rita insisted. “You may have to.”
She hopped over to the book department and returned with a book called What to Name Baby.
Then she began reading out the names she thought might suit Wolstencroft.
“What about Adrian?” she suggested. “It’s a lovely name, very dignified.”
But Wolstencroft shook his head.
“Well, what do you think of Bernard? It actually means brave as a bear.”
But Wolstencroft was not impressed.
So Rita left the B’s and began flipping through the pages of the book, reading out a name for each letter of the alphabet starting with C.
“Clive, David, Edwin, Francis, Graham, Howard, Ivan, Jeremy, Keith, Leonard, Miles, Nathan, Oliver, Percy, Quentin, Rodney, Selwyn, Timothy, Ulysses, Vincent, Winston.”
And here she stopped because the names beginning with X, Y and Z: Xavier, Yves and Zachary, were too difficult to pronounce. There was no sense in taking a name that was even harder to say than the one he already had.
But Wolstencroft didn’t like any of the names she suggested. At least not for himself.
“They’re all fine names,” he said, popping a piece of chocolate into his mouth then dabbing his mouth with a napkin. “But, they’re just not me.”
Rita stayed lost in thought for a very long time, tapping her cheek with her finger. And it wasn’t until the big clock behind the pharmacy counter struck ten that she finally spoke.
“I think I have the answer,” she said. “You could have a name that’s easy to say and keep your name at the same time.”
Wolstencroft looked puzzled. “That doesn’t make sense,” he replied.
“Oh, but it does,” Rita insisted. “You only have to shorten the name you have.”
Wolstencroft began to look interested. “You mean I would still be Wolstencroft, but I’d have a shorter, easier to pronounce name for those who preferred it.”
“That’s right,” she cried excitedly. “And you have such a long name that there are several choices.” And she began ticking them off on her fingers.
“Woolly, Wolsten, Sten or Croft. Which one do you like best?”
Wolstencroft thought very carefully, mulling over each name in his mind.
“I like Croft,” he decided at last. It’s very dignified.
Rita looked disappointed. “I like Woolly best,” she said. “It’s so cuddly and friendly. And you are woolly, you have a lovely thick coat.”
Wolstencroft looked uncertain.
“You would still be Wolstencroft,” Rita reminded him. “And that’s a very dignified name indeed. Woolly would be a nice contrast.”
They talked it over for well into the night as this was a very important decision. There are very few things as important as one’s name.
But finally, just before the dawn rose in the eastern sky, Rita had convinced him that Woolly was the best choice.
“You’re right,” Wolstencroft said as he closed his eyes and prepared to sleep. “It’s nice to be dignified, but not to be stuffy.”
And so it was that Wolstencroft became known as Woolly for short.
“I bet someone will come along and buy you tomorrow,” Rita predicted as she fetched a black felt pen from the stationery department and underneath Wolstencroft, wrote Woolly for short.
But Rita was wrong. It was she, and not Wolstencroft, who went to a new home the next day.
Nobody bought Wolstencroft that day. Or the next day. Or the day after that.
In fact, all through that entire year, which felt very long indeed to Wolstencroft, nobody took him home to love and to hug him. And by this time he longed to be hugged so badly that sometimes he thought he just couldn’t stand it any longer. Because, of course, no hug is too big for a teddy bear.
Soon it was almost Christmas time again. And the tinsel and the holly were decorating the drug store. And the shoppers were all very merry and wearing gaily colored scarves and mittens. But still no one bought Wolstencroft, who was feeling extra sad and lonely sitting there all by himself high above the Christmas cards and wrapping paper.
It’s my name he decided sadly, as a tear rolled down his furry cheek. I hate it. And so does everyone else. I wish I were called anything but Wolstencroft. Even though it’s now Woolly for short.
Then one frosty evening when the stars were sparkling in the night sky and snowflakes were dancing past the windows, a little boy and his daddy came into the store.
“Hey look at this,” said the daddy when he noticed Wolstencroft’s name tag. “This teddy bear has the same name as you! Only you’re called Sten for short and he’s called Woolly.”
“What?” The boy called out in surprise. “I didn’t think anyone else in the whole great big world was called Wolstencroft.”
And just like Wolstencroft the bear, he was beginning to hate his name.
“Why don’t you two get to know each other?” the daddy suggested as he lifted Wolstencroft down from the shelf.
And the little boy wrapped his arms around his namesake, which means someone who has the same name as yourself, and stroked his soft fur. And they both loved each other from that moment on.
“I love him daddy, can I have him for Christmas?” he asked hopefully. And when his daddy said yes, danced around the store with Wolstencroft, almost colliding with other shoppers as he did so.
Wolstencroft really wasn’t such a bad name after all they both decided as they whirled around the Christmas tree at the front of the store. In fact, it was starting to sound better all the time now that they had found each other in this wonderful way.
Wolstencroft the bear had never remembered feeling this happy before. Indeed, he felt so chock-full of joy that he thought he just might burst. He was going to a new home at last. And he knew that this little boy, who was called Sten, would be his very best friend forever.
Then Sten gave him a hug so big that his tummy was squished. But, of course, Wolstencroft didn’t care. Because no hug is too big for a teddy bear.