Winnie the Pooh and Elmer the Elf.

I recently read the final chapter in The House at Pooh Corner to my daughter, thus completing our sojourn in the Hundred Acre Woods.

The animals have all sensed, without knowing how, that Christopher Robin is Going Away, and they write him a note — a Poem, really, as drafted by Eeyore, which reads (in part):

I ought
To begin again
But it is easier
To stop.

Well, anyhow, we send
Our love.
END.

The whole crowd of them — Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, and of course Pooh — deliver the Poem to Christopher Robin, but they all feel “awkward and unhappy,” because “it was a sort of good-bye they were saying, and they didn’t want to think about it.” Eventually, having all crowded around, they slowly edge away, and by the time Christopher Robin is finished reading the Poem, the only one left is Pooh.

“It’s a comforting sort of thing to have,” said Christopher Robin, folding up the paper, and putting it in his pocket. “Come on, Pooh,” and he walked off quickly.

They walk and talk, with Christopher Robin filling Pooh in on “people called Kings and Queens and something called Factors… and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil.” Christopher Robin knights Pooh, dubbing him “Sir Pooh de Bear, most faithful of all my Knights.”

And slowly it dawns on Pooh “how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain” to keep track of all of the exciting new information to which Christopher Robin is now privy,

“So perhaps,” he said sadly to himself, “Christopher Robin won’t tell me anymore,” and he wondered if being a Faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things.

We come to see, though, that Christopher Robin has his own fears. Having told Pooh that “they” don’t let you do Nothing almost ever, he finally says

“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”

Pooh thought for a little.

“How old shall I be then?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Pooh nodded.

“I promise,” he said.

Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I – if I’m not quite -” he stopped and tried again – “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”

*****

Once upon a time, I had an imaginary friend. Well, in truth, I had a great number of imaginary friends, designed to suit whatever need I might have at the time. I remember that one of them wore only silver, and another wore only gold.

But the one that mattered was Elmer the Elf.

Elmer was a constant in my life for many years, and in my mind’s eye, he looked rather as you might expect an elf to look (if you have not yet been introduced to the Lord of the Rings). He was tiny, and dressed largely in green, and I believe he may have even had a peaked cap.

When I was about eight — maybe I was seven? I’m not at all sure — I sat with Elmer in my Queenie’s backyard, between the swing set and the bush that, if Queenie and Grandpa weren’t looking, you could take a flower from, turn it upside down, and you’d have a little doll.

I sat on the grass, and Elmer stood before me, and I told him that it was ok — he could go back to his family. I understood that he needed them and they needed him, and I would be ok. He could go. And, well, he left, I suppose. I didn’t see him go.

The amazing thing to me about this story is that I knew — of course I knew — that Elmer wasn’t really real, and never had been. But, like Christopher Robin, I was moving beyond my ability to see past the veil, and I needed to send Elmer home.

The truth is that my childhood had been kind of rough up to that point, and would continue to be pretty rough for another two or three years — I think it would have been nice if I had been able to have Elmer around for a little longer.

But the child grows, the mind changes, and quite possibly aside from anything else, having already been through a thing or two, it’s entirely possible that I knew in a way that I couldn’t have before that Elmer could only help so much.

And yet, at the same time, I know that I did Know, in a way that I will always Know, that Elmer — like Pooh, and the Velveteen Rabbit, and the stuffed dog that I lost in one of our many, many moves — was, in fact Real, would always be Real, and like Pooh, would not forget about me, ever. And that whatever happens, he still understands.

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.

6 Comments

  1. Kivrin

     /  April 21, 2010

    The end of The House at Pooh Corner makes me cry SO HARD. I can’t even face it without preparing myself for a few hours of sobbing.

    Oh, and my Teddy bear is Real, too. And even though he’s 25 years old now and starting to get threadbare, so I can’t sleep with him every night like I used to—I know that he understands.

  2. dmf

     /  April 21, 2010

    whew, right up until the end i thought that you were signing off here, i guess that we are your new virtual friends and i may not always get it but no matter what happens i will understand.

  3. My bear is named Bolsty. He was gift to me just 25 years ago, when I was a freshman in college, and named after the Cherokee phrase for “be strong.” He is an all-white stuffed bear, and he is real… and he is Real… and you, Emily, are a special kind of genius.

  4. I jumped up after reading this, with a tear in my eye, and forced Hilary to read it right away. Magnificent.

  5. Lise

     /  April 21, 2010

    T-bear’s still sitting on my desk. But Jefferson’s long gone the way of Elmer. Did Q & G care if we used the hollyhocks for dolls? I didn’t think so. Can’t even bring myself to read the end of Pooh. At all. Did you get through reading it to the Girl without crying?

  1. Friday Links | Vicki Boykis
%d bloggers like this: