My daughter, recently moved away for a job across the country, asked me to locate a specific book from the shelf in her still intact childhood bedroom and mail it to her.
Specifically, she wanted “Pooh.”
A commemorative, hardbound edition of stories with gold-gilt pages, a gift from me on her 6th birthday, it was the book she often asked for as a child when she wanted comfort. Even into her teens, when high school was too demanding or she’d had a disagreement with a friend, “Will you read ‘Pooh’ to me, Mom?” she’d call.
Now, hundreds of miles from her own Hundred Acre Wood, in the throes of new adult-ing lessons every day, 26-year-old Emily was in need of reminders of Pooh again, a need I fully understand, especially after seeing the new Winnie the Pooh film, “Christopher Robin.”
I teared up before the credits rolled.
Snuggled into my oversized theater recliner like a lap, I was swept away to that longed-for place, that place that was both clouded in dreams and rooted in clarity, a vision of childhood author A.A. Milne was a master at recreating, I found myself at once stifling sobs and chuckling ever so chucklingly every time Pooh opened his honeyed little mouth to speak.
“Sometimes, when I’m going somewhere, I wait. And then somewhere comes to me,” says Pooh. And, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” And, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the biggest room in your heart.”
The film is centered around an ultimately uplifting story, a not unfamiliar one in adult circles, about an all-grown-up-now, workaholic Christopher Robin who has lost all sense of play, who has even forgotten Pooh.
The story ends with Christopher finding his way back to wonder with the help of Pooh who, in one scene on a train, entertains himself by naming the things he sees out the window.
“House. Grass. Dog.”
Pooh’s way is familiar to those of us following the mindfulness urgings of modern-day gurus. Except what makes Pooh’s brand so appealing is its mindlessness. Which could be why he was the impetus for an internationally bestselling book, “The Tao of Pooh,” in the early 1980s. And one of the reasons I long to go back. My daughter, I assume, too. “Was childhood even real?” she wants to know.
I came home after the movie that night to the text from Emily asking for the book. I also came home to a mini-cast on my social media page, an interview about the concept of “pronoia,” which is said to be the opposite of paranoia.
The interview, with poet, author and astrologer Rob Brezsny, begins with a thought: “What if we operated under the assumption that the world is fundamentally friendly and that the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings?”
What if a red balloon wasn’t a dyed piece of latex full of gas but a friend that makes more friends wherever it blows?
What if the sky was not something that either ruined my day with rain or brightened my day with sun, but a puffy giant blanket that covers the whole world?
What if the steps that lead upstairs to Emily’s book shelf were not a stack of wood blocks that simply get me from below to above, but a staircase to the stars?
As I headed to Emily’s bedroom to look for her book, I decided to scamper instead of trudge.
I didn’t find “Pooh.”
What I did find was a very real lavender bedroom and a bookcase teeming full of “American Girl” doll books, “Harry Potter,” “Little Women,” photo albums, Emily’s familiar handwriting on little notes tucked here and there. What I found as I stood looking and touching the books, the photos, the little wooden boxes filled with treasures, was a realization that all this is not only still part of Emily. It is Emily.
“I couldn’t find the book,” I texted to tell her. “But I found something else: Childhood is inside you. It doesn’t go away.”
It’s what children assume all along, which is what makes them both masters and magicians.
Childhood is not a fixed time with boundaries. It’s a state of being. And it can be reclaimed again and again.
Says an exasperated Christopher Robin to Pooh at some point in the movie: “There’s more to life than balloons and honey.”
“Are you sure?” says Pooh.
And with that, the bright orange ball on the sky in the screen went down, down, down, headed to bed.
But not before generously spreading its lollipop color across the endless puffy blanket that covers us all, you and you and me, across the faces and moments of Christopher and Pooh, and full bore into a mother’s childish heart.
Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.