In Which Pooh Waits
Pooh Bear was sure a lot of time had gone by, because he had had a lot of wishes. They had the odd habit of drifting away from him, getting replaced by other ones, and coming back like red balloons blown by the wind. Pooh could not keep them organized as friend Rabbit could organize his garden, but he did know what most of them were about, more or less. A great many involved honey, and those made his stomach all rumbly.
A great many more wishes involved Pooh’s best friend, Christopher Robin, who often went off to do something other than nothing—and to learn about things like Kings and Queens and Electricity. Christopher Robin would go to a place called school and disappear for wishes upon wishes.
But Christopher Robin always came back.
He had always come back, and on those afternoons the boy and bear would play in the Hundred Acre Woods atop a knoll called Galleons Lap. From up there it was possible to see the vast spread of forest all the way past what either one could see. They would sit on the green grass in the shade of a large tree, have fun doing nothing, share honey, and simply be together.
When the moment came for them to part again, Christopher Robin would always say, “Pooh, promise me you’ll come up here sometimes, so I can find you when I return?”
“I promise, Christopher,” Pooh would always answer. “I’ll wait here forever and ever.”
“Oh, Pooh,” Christopher Robin might then add.
So Pooh would come up to Galleons Lap sometimes, and Christopher Robin would come sometimes. Even though the amount of wishes between their times together kept growing.
At first, that did not worry Pooh. The passing seasons brought little to no changes for Pooh and his other friends. They went about their daily lives as they always had, untouched by the world beyond the Hundred Acre Woods. That meant Pooh was all right with waiting just a few more wishes for Christopher Robin to come each time. But after a while, Pooh noticed a season or two would pass between one visit by Christopher Robin and the next. And when that happened, Pooh began to wait at Galleons Lap almost every afternoon, in case Christopher Robin came on an afternoon Pooh might not have been there. He thought that was a clever plan for a bear of very little brain.
Finally, a point came when Pooh did not see Christopher Robin for seasons upon seasons, and wishes upon wishes. Yet he still came to wait at Galleons Lap every afternoon.
On occasion, Pooh’s good friend Piglet would join him, bringing along a picnic basket filled with haycorns and honey. Other friends from around the Hundred Acre Woods did as well. Tigger liked to bounce about the knoll with Kanga and Roo, Rabbit enjoyed discussing his latest vegetable harvest (usually accompanied by various relations), Owl perched in the tree to tell long stories about his family, and even Eeyore made appearances (to grumble about things like his worn knees). Those were wonderful times, but they were never the same as those Pooh shared with Christopher Robin.
Now Pooh sat alone atop Galleons Lap, hopeful this would be the afternoon Christopher Robin returned. A heavy mist crept in across the Hundred Acre Woods, hiding everything until Pooh could barely see the large tree under which he and Christopher Robin used to sit together so often. The large tree had lost its leaves, sprouted others, and then lost them again. The leaves had done this over and over again, in a similar way to the wishes Pooh had tried to count.
Perhaps wishes and tree leaves were the same things. Pooh considered it for a while, tapping one paw against his head, as if he were in his thoughtful spot elsewhere in the woods. “Think, think, think,” Pooh said. But even then he could not figure out if wishes and tree leaves were the same or not (though it could have been because he was in a place other than his thoughtful spot). Finally, Pooh decided to ask Christopher Robin about it the next time he came. To pass the time, and perhaps hold onto his thoughts about wishes and tree leaves, Pooh made up a poem:
“Wishes and leaves come and go,
Come and go,
To where they go,
Where they go,
I want to know,
Want to know,
When they return are they the same,
They the same,
As when they went away?
They went away….
Pooh paused here because the poem stirred a peculiar feeling deep in his stuffing. It was warm and tingly like love but reminded him of empty honeypots instead. The leaves dropping from the tree had the same effect on him, as did the wishes. He did not know what the peculiar feeling was, but somehow he began to worry Christopher Robin might have forgotten where Galleons Lap was, or even how to get to the Hundred Acre Woods.
When Pooh thought of what would happen if Christopher Robin had lost his way, the feeling like love got worse. He did not know what to call it and hoped Christopher Robin could explain it.
“But . . . what if Christopher Robin gets so lost he cannot come back and explain it at all?” Pooh shuddered. “And if Christopher Robin is not here—” He trailed off, hugging his empty honeypot and aching terribly from the feeling like love. “Oh, bother, I think I understand what it’s like to be a tree with no leaves.”
“Silly Old Bear, don’t you remember that you’re braver than you believe,” Pooh heard someone say, “and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think?” He turned in the direction of the words and noticed a dark figure coming through the mist. A blustery wind blew all of a sudden, even though it was not a Wednesday, and someone Pooh knew very well appeared. At least, Pooh believed he knew him well.
“Christopher Robin?” Pooh asked. Christopher Robin wore a brown suit and a tie, which he had never worn on his previous visits. Then Pooh noticed Christopher Robin also had hair on his chin and was much taller. Those changes were even odder than the clothes. But finally Christopher Robin knelt down, Pooh glimpsed the brightness of his wide blue eyes, and he became familiar again.
“Christopher Robin!” Pooh said, rushing over to his best friend.
“Hi, Pooh Bear.” With one arm, Christopher Robin scooped up Pooh into a warm hug. “I’m sorry it’s been such a long time. I was almost thought I could never . . . You really would wait forever and ever for me, wouldn’t you?” His face was moist, and as they held each other the peculiar feeling like love began to make sense to Pooh.
Ah, Pooh thought, the feeling like love had been love, just love which missed a friend. It was love strong enough to hold onto a friend even when he went far away. Then he heard an odd burbling sound.
There, cradled in Christopher Robin’s other arm, was a small happy face looking at Pooh from within the bundled folds of a blanket. The small happy face belonged to a baby with bright blue eyes.
“Christopher Robin, who are you holding?” Pooh asked. “Is he a new friend for me to meet?”
“Yes, she is, Pooh,” Christopher Robin said. “She’s a very new friend for you to meet.”
“Oh. What’s her name?”
“Claire, and she keeps me busy.”
“I like that name, but—” For a moment, Pooh trembled like Piglet. “Does this mean I’ll need to wait longer for you come back next time?”
“No, Pooh. You’re done waiting,” Christopher Robin assured him. “You’re coming with me, and we’ll be together from now on, as we always have been in our hearts. I do have to ask you a big favor, though. A favor as grand as the Hundred Acre Woods.”
“Would you promise to be a best friend to Claire?” Christopher Robin gave Pooh a warm smile. “Forever and ever?”
“I promise, Christopher,” Pooh said. “I’ll be her best friend forever and ever too.”
“Oh, Pooh,” Christopher Robin replied with a happy sigh, carrying both Pooh and the baby Claire away with him. Even as they departed the mist continued to clear, revealing the tree atop Galleons Lap.
It had fresh green leaves.