A couple, who hadn’t been able to hug their grandkids since March because of the coronavirus risk, have now enjoyed a cuddle thanks to a pair of inflatable polar bear costumes.
Barbara, 71, and Clive Walshaw, 73, said the moment they got to hug their grandchildren after nine months apart was the “best six minutes” they’d experienced all year.
The grandchildren – Quinn, six, Morgan, eight, and Mackenzie, 14 – were heartbroken when they were told they couldn’t nip round to see their relatives for Christmas and instead would only be able to see their grandparents on a Zoom call with a laptop at the end of the dinner table.
But while Christmas shopping online, Barbara stumbled upon the inflatable polar bear outfits and realised she may have found a way to hug her grandchildren on 25 December.
On the big day the couple snuck up to their grandchildren’s home in Kirkstall, Leeds, and hugged it out while inside the 6ft 6in costumes, which have plastic panels to look out of.
Barbara said it was the “best £15 she’d ever spent” because the heartwarming reunion brought so much joy to the family and a “pure Christmas spirit”.
“At first they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t come round and it was so heartbreaking,” she explains.
“We normally spend Christmas day with them and we wondered what we were going to do with all that’s been going on.
“We wanted to be careful because if we got poorly it wouldn’t just be us that were poorly, the boys would feel like they were responsible for it - which isn’t what we wanted.
“But the costumes worked really well. Totally enclosed. It was the best idea I’ve ever had I think.”
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Barbara says her youngest grandson was a bit overawed by the massive polar bears until he realised it was his grandparents inside.
“So many cuddles,” she continues. “It was amazing.
“This year has been so hard. Those six minutes were just pure Christmas joy and something that cannot be described.
“We laughed and cried. I loved it.”
The close family normally spend two to three days a week together, and the grandparents even have a spare room set up for the boys.
The couple’s son, Neil Walshaw, 45, a councillor, said it was the best hug his boys ever had and a memory they would “never forget”.
At around noon on Christmas Day, Neil and his wife Hazel, 44, told their three boys that they’d heard a rumour that there were polar bear sightings in Kirkstall.
When the children headed outside they spotted their grandparents heading towards them in massive polar bear costumes.
The couple’s youngest son Quinn was so shocked when he saw nana and grandpa walk up to their home that he sprinted back into the house and out again to make sure it was real.
“It was my amazing mum’s idea,” Neil explains.
“We’ve not had any physical contact since [March] and it’s been so hard as they’re really involved grandparents.
“This year has been so tough but after seeing them, we were buzzing all day.
“The grandkids will never forget it. It was fantastic,” he adds.
Additional reporting SWNS.