When I recently discovered that “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” was available on Netflix, I was all over it. I love Winnie the Pooh. My first Christmas present was a stuffed Pooh Bear, which was quickly followed by Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger – we had to wait for my little brother to come along before we added Owl and Rabbit to the family. There is home video of me at age 2 on an old VHS somewhere watching Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine (the other mainstay of my earliest years – I liked it because my name was in it!). Nothing evokes my childhood as instantaneously as that “willy nilly silly old bear.”
Thing is, I had watched the original Disney shorts so many times that after a while when when I put them on, I ceased to hear dialogue and simply became accustomed to the flow of the words, their rhythm and inflection and timing, almost like a familiar piece of music. But I had only ever seen this 1977 compilation of the first three shorts once, on television when I was maybe 6 or 7. I remembered extremely distinctly its closing segment, based on the closing chapter of A.A. Milne’s original: “In which Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an Enchanted Place, and we leave them there.” I remembered the sense of melancholy that I had sensed in this scene even at that age, as Christopher Robin and Pooh said goodbye – as if looking ahead and seeing that, as I made the transition from childhood to adulthood, such bittersweet partings would become more and more a fact of life.
Watching it again just tonight, the feeling of wistfulness came rushing back, informed now by some of the partings my 7-year-old self had foreseen:
Christopher Robin then asks Pooh to promise to never, not ever forget about him, not even when he is one hundred (and Pooh is 99). Pooh promises to never forget. Christopher Robin looks out at the world, and asks Pooh to understand, whatever happens, and Pooh asks what it is he needs to understand, and Christopher Robin says nevermind, and then Come on!, and Pooh says where to, and Christopher Robin says “Anywhere”.
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
He’s a little ragged after more than two decades, but I still have my very first Pooh Bear. I suspect I always will.