Once you have lived through a happy childhood and then watched your own children live through theirs, you begin to understand how gilded with that light is that brief time before serious schooling begins, with all its many indoor distractions.
My grandchildren are deep into the center of childhood with all of its magic and pretending this and that, and one of them is stepping across that line that bids that time good-bye. I admit it makes me sad because, although many good things happen in public school, many not so good things happen as well. There seems to suddenly be a lot of emphasis on "real life" and numbers and writing squiggles that stand for words. There are also people, both adults and children, who are less than kind hearted. People who say hurtful things to others, just for the fun of it, just to be mean. How that can be fun I have not the slightest idea. Creativity runs the rusk of being squelched, self-image can be marred forever and there is no one at hand to contradict the insult or give you a graceful way out, or speak out loud the fact that those mean things are in fact untrue and not to be believed.
As you may know, when I am at B, M and E's house we often read stories either from A. A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh or Beatrix Potter's, The Tales of Peter Rabbit series. We haven't read them all yet and I hope we never do.
The other night, once the baby was sleeping sweetly in his crib, B and M brought me The House At Pooh Corner to read. As it turned out, we had already read all but the final story. I don't really like the final story, "Christopher Robin and Pooh Come To An Enchanted Place, And We Leave Them There". It is the story of C.R. trying to explain to his stuffed animal friends that he is going to school soon, stepping out to cross that line I was talking about previously. I didn't know if I could read it aloud, but decided to give it a go.
We read along fine through most of the story and then we reached this part, near the end, in which CR and Pooh are at the top of the wood, doing Nothing together:
"Then, suddenly, again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Well, not so much. They don't let you."
Right there is the spot where my throat closed up and my eyes began to sting and my voice got croaky and teary. They were quiet and waited until I could read again. I tried again.
"Pooh, when I'm ----you know---when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Will you be here too?"
That is where my eyes started to leak in ernest and I could no longer speak. I took off my glasses and was wiping my eyes. Brendan, who is seven and a half and knows about the line that looms so near, gently took book from me and began to read to us in his little boy voice.
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"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?"
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?"
----" Oh, nothing," He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.
Children are unnerved when they see adults crying. It happens so rarely that they have no idea what to do about it or even how to feel about it. B put his little hand on my leg and Maggie lay her sweet head on my shoulder until I had pulled myself together and could tell them this truth:
It is important to continue finding time to do Nothing, even when you are grown up and busy with so many things, even when you are as old as I am. It is important to go somewhere where you can be outside and perfectly quiet and doing Nothing. Because it is there, in those moments, when Love can speak great universal truths to your heart. It is in those precious moments when your connection with the earth and all that is beyond it is reinforced. It is there that Wisdom comes to sit beside you and whispers in your ear.