Brown paper packages tied up with string…

You know the song. Yes, this post is about my favorite things. I received one of those things on Christmas in 1994,  from my delightful brother-in-law, Mark. An Illinois native, he has been a Bears fan since he was a small boy. And he knew exactly what to get me for Christmas one year. It was this:

Yes, The Bears: A 75-Year Celebration, published in 1994. The official, authorized history of my beloved Monsters of the Midway. The story of George Stanley Halas (Papa Bear), their coach and owner for more than 60 years, plus the history of the Bears from Red Grange, Sid Luckman, Gale Sayers, and Dick Butkus to Brian Piccolo, Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Mike Ditka. I consider it the Holy Bible of Beardom.

What makes it even better? On the inside cover is this:

Yes, that is Dan “The Man” Hampton’s autograph. #99. Defensive LE for the Bears. Hall of Famer. Next to Sweetness, my favorite player. And the fact that Mark (and I’ll probably get this wrong, but he’ll correct me) waited in line to make sure he got Dan’s autograph for me–personalized for me–is the bow or string on the gift. Did you read where Dan called me a “sweetheart?” Go back and read that part again. I just did. I think Dan decided to write that after Mark told him how I sing the Bears fight song in the bars of my hometown, Wichita. I’m sure #99 was impressed. I know I was that Christmas morning. It’s a gift I will forever cherish.

Oh, but let’s not forget this:

This would be an autographed B&W from Sweetness himself. Walter Payton. The greatest running back of all time. #34. Hall of Famer. I obtained his autograph when the Women’s Show in Wichita actually had the smarts to bring in an athlete to woo some men to their horrific (even for women) show. I’d never been to a Women’s Show and haven’t been back since, but I did stand in line for hours to get an autograph and have my picture taken with Mr. Payton. As we finally reached the table, a woman announced there was no more time for pictures. Just autographs and a quick hello. I was next in line with my stepson, Ian, and my good friend, Deah. She’d volunteered to come along. Probably to make sure I didn’t faint. Walter must have seen the disappointment on my face because he smiled that famous smile and said, “You and your son get back here. One more picture.” I shakily handed the camera to Deah and Ian and I quickly ran around behind the table.

Deah later told me she was a nervous wreck. All she kept thinking was if she didn’t get this picture, if it was blurry or didn’t come out, I’d kill her. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have strangled my best friend if a photo of me and some football player was blurry or….but I know better. It’s Walter. Fortunately for all, the picture came out great. I bought the perfect picture frame just a few months later. It’s orange and says “World’s Greatest Bears Fan.”

Not sure about raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but I do know these are a few of my favorite things.

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