MEMORY AVENUE: 25 Life Lessons I Learned from the Berenstain Bears

My sisters and I must have been some pretty moralistic children, because every night of our upbringings, when it 

Only Papa got the sad, sad memo…

Only Papa got the sad, sad memo…

came to be read-us-a-book-before-bed time, we always demanded that our parents give us a Berenstain Bearsfix. Yeah, Mercer Mayer, you were cool, and okay, Eric Carle, nice paper-tearing, and aight, The Bad Babies Counting Book, you were pretty gangsta.

But for my money, those other books could only beat The Berenstain Bears in a sucking contest. And I think America agrees with me. After all, what other books ever became McDonald's toys? No one wants to see goddamned Rotten Ralph in no goddamned Happy Meal. Sorry, just being real for a second.

Last Friday, the world lost Berenstain Bears co-author Jan Berenstain. Since Jan's husband Stan already passed in 2005, that, tragically, means no more Papa, Mama, Brother or Sister ever again (unless, of course, Mike needs some quick cash).

But even though Jan is gone, I'll never forget her, or the many moral/arbitrary lessons she tried to impart to a young me. And I'll always strive to live life like the Puritan Bear she wanted me to be.

Here are some things I learned from her:

“They’re probably not even real bears!”

“They’re probably not even real bears!”

1. Your father might have deep-seated resentment toward the Asian bears that he blames for World War II, but sometimes they make cool food that is different from yours.

2. You can calculate lightning's distance from you in miles by counting the seconds between a lightning flash and a thunder boom. Also, this proves that Bear God exists and that he loves you.

3. Strangers are like apples --  even nice-looking ones have worms inside them, so you should only eat the scary strangers.

4. Birthdays always blow.

5. Moms should only have one job, and that job is housewife.

6. Eating junk food will give you Bear Diabetes and kill you.

7. Watching TV will give you Bear Diabetes and kill you.

8. Getting the gimmies will give you Bear Diabetes and kill you.

9. Being able to recite your lines for the school play from inside of a log makes you both a.) impressive and b.) a dick.

“What’s that freak doing without a headband?”

“What’s that freak doing without a headband?”

10. Hoop earrings and headbands are cool and everything until they make you suck at double-dutch. Sucking at double-dutch = UM, NOT COOL.

11. Queenie McBear and Too-Tall Grizzly were sexually active at the age of nine. (This is less of a life lesson and more of a true observation.)

12. Girls ruin all the fun and that's why it was a smart idea to try and exclude them in the first place.

13. Grandparents are just as boring as you would assume.  (Also, parents going on a second honeymoon is disgusting.)

14. Wrestling = the fat loser's revenge.

15. Don't sass your parents, or else your mother and father will dress up like big versions of you and terrify you.

16. Don't invite boys to a social gathering, or else it will turn into an ecstasy-fueled rave. I mean..."slumber party."

Michael Bay presents…Space Grizzlies!

Michael Bay presents…Space Grizzlies!

17. Seeing scary movies is awesome and the best part is afterwards when you get to sleep in your parents' bed!

18. Soft ice cream is soft ice cream. (This was a sentence from a Berenstain Bears book that my family never quite understood but also acknowledged to be generally true.)

19. Your first name is determined by your position in the family, and your last name is determined by your species, but this is true of only your family and no one else's.

20. Instead of chocolate...try a carrot stick!

21. Instead of ice cream...try a celery stick!

22. You know what? Just don't eat at all. Or at least binge, followed by a purge.

23. Kids have mid-life crises over bikes. 

24. Quitting cold-turkey (i.e. tying little tapes around your fingernails) is the best way to cure addiction.

25. SANTA IS REAL (and he is spectacular).

RIP, Jan. Thank you for the memories and the morals. I hope they serve barbecued honeycomb and salmon in Heaven, and I hope you and Stan are having some right now.

Or, on second thought...have a carrot stick.