The Berenstain Bears TM

Remembering my father … Stan Berenstain

Stan Berenstain 2My father was, above all, a person who made things. He was a full-time creator with a capital AC.@  Most people are familiar with the public face of his creativity, the books that he and my mother made over their sixty year collaboration.  But there was another side to Stan=s creative impulse, a private side directed toward his children B toward me and my older brother, Leo.  It was one which had a great effect on us.

A good example was the time when, at about age six, I became interested in knights in armor.  I had a book with illustrations of medieval weapons and equipment, including catapults.  I fell in love with those catapults.  I showed them to my Dad.  He, I think sensibly, refrained from building me a real working catapult.  But he did offer to make scale models of the ones that were in my book.  He took me to the local hobby shop where we bought a supply of balsa wood, the kind you use for making model airplanes.

Back home, Dad drew up some plans, got out his x-acto knife and Duco cement and set to work.  As I watched, he created perfectly scaled models of the warlike creations of a thousand years ago.  Not only did they look perfect, but they worked, too.  The wheels on the siege tower turned. The arms of the catapults pivoted.  He created illusory details out of simple materials.  He made ropes out of twisted thread.  He made leather thongs out of sliced masking tape.  But what I remember most vividly was when he took a sharpened lead pencil and used it to make lines in sheets of balsa wood so that it looked like they were put together out of tiny planks.  Then, he took the point of the pencil and poked little holes at the end of each plank so that they looked just like the heads of nails holding the planks in place.  For me, it was magic.  Unfortunately, I then took the models and played war games with them, and they did not fare well. 

But my father didn’t mind.  By then, he had gone on to other acts of creation.  He was drawing cartoons for magazines, or painting a picture, or writing a book or inventing a new TV show, or a hundred other things.

Of course, my father had a partner in all this creativity, my mother, Jan. During their long career together, they were sometimes asked whether they ever disagreed about their work. They always replied that, no, they didn’t disagree, but that they sometimes Aagreed, vigorously.@  Their marriage had to be unusually strong and close to survive the stresses of both a professional and personal relationship, especially when you consider that they spent about 99.9% of their married life literally in the same room together.

I don=t think it was any accident that my father was able to communicate the wonder and enthusiasm of his creativity so directly to me and to my brother when we were children.  I think that the impulse of his creativity was, at heart, child-like B the same impulse that compels a child to make mud pies, or dress up in a costume, or invent an imaginary companion to play with.  And I think it was no accident that he communicated so effectively and powerfully with children through his books.  He retained his own child-like delight in creation throughout his long life and I think the world is a better place for it.

by Mike Berenstain

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