CLINTON — With families isolated in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and parks closed for the children, what would be a better way to communicate love and support than through the comfort of a teddy bear?
Teddy bears in windows across the globe, inspiring children to go on a Teddy Bear Hunt to see how many they can find, has become an international trend from Japan to New Zealand — even the Village of Clinton.
Michelle Reiser-Memmer, of 21 Marvin St., said she encountered the trend online and immediately put "Big Bear," a 2-foot teddy bear, in the front window of her family's home.
"I first saw it on Facebook," Reiser-Memmer said. "One of the elementary school teachers put it up on her page. My daughter, Delia, who is now 14, loved that book when she was younger. I know there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood walking up and down the street, through the main thoroughfare and through the village, and we thought it would be really fun to put a bear in our window."
The book Reiser-Memmer refers to is the 1989 children's book, " We're Going On A Bear Hunt," by Michael Rosen. The story, which has also been turned into a popular YouTube sing-along, serves as the inspiration for the communal activity while allowing people to adhere to social-distancing guidelines.
"I see parents out with their kids and it's just something fun to do while everyone is stuck at home," Reiser-Memmer said.
Reiser- Memmer, who runs the Performing Arts Center at Hamilton College, also makes hand sewn masks she leaves tacked to a sign outside her home that says, "free to anyone walking by who needs one."
"We love Clinton," she said. We love living on Marvin Street. We think the community is great. It's a really nice place to be and have a family."
Just around the corner from Big Bear's house — on Prospect Street — there's another little stuffed teddy bear named, “Fuzzy," who sits in the front door window. Only he has a caption balloon taped over his head (on the glass) that reads, "A smile is like a hug."
Kristine Bellona, wife of Village Mayor Steven J. Bellona, said Anne Debraggio, director of the Kirkland Town Library, gave her the heads-up on the trend.
"Anne sent me a text," Bellona said. "Along with a number of other people, and it said Clinton Elementary School teachers were encouraging people to put teddy bears in their windows."
Bellona said the teachers asked so the children who were walking around the neighborhood, could play the game. She said there are other benefits too.
"It's nice way to get out and spark conversation," Bellona said. "Furthermore, I decided to attach a message to our bear, and every couple of days I change it. The other day we had a little girl walking by with her parents while I was trimming the bushes and you could see her point to our door. I said to her, ‘You can come up and read this message if you like.’"
Bellona said she moved away from her walk (to respect social-distancing) so the girl could come up and read the message which was, "I'm waving at you."
"She waved to the bear," Bellona said. "And then she waived to me...it was very sweet. Social distancing doesn't mean you can't still say something to people in a very positive way."
Julie Rotondo, owner of the Beatty Bed and Biscuit in Clinton, said she also learned of the trend on Facebook. She walks with her grandchildren. 7-year-old Ryan and 4-year-old Emma, and they found a lot of bears, along with an Elmo and other stuffed animals in the windows on Utica Street.
"I get my grandchildren every Thursday," Rotondo said. "I always try to get them out of the house and walking around. We take the dogs with us and so we're walking down through the village and on the way back, I'm looking in windows. I start seeing a couple bears here and there…"
At this point Rotondo said she got the kids involved.
"I said, ‘You want to do a bear hunt?,''' she explained. "'Look in the people's windows,' I told them, and count the numbers of bears you see on the way home. We ended up finding 17 in all, and the kids said, 'Oh my God, that was just the best thing ever.'"