Now We Are Sixty

mapWinnie-the-Pooh was out walking in the forest one day, thinking about lunch. He would have gone on thinking about it, but it occurred to him that he had come to the path that led out of the forest. It was a very old path, overgrown and lined with hoary willows. Pooh had been there once before with Christopher Robin. But that was long ago and he did not like to think about it.

Just as the bear was about to turn away and think about something else, he realized that there was someone else on the path. Tall and gray-headed, the stranger looked a little like the willows. Something about him reminded Pooh of the sticks in Eeyore’s house, all withered and weathered and sagging just a little.

At first Pooh thought this might be Piglet’s grandfather–Trespassers William, also known as Tresspassers Will for short and sometimes even T.W. for shorter. Piglet often talked about his grandfather, who was known to be something of an Adventurer. Trespassers William had been away for a long time. He had been away for as long as Pooh and Piglet could remember, actually. But this stranger looked too tall to be Piglet’s grandfather and there was no family resemblance.

“Hallo” Pooh said, wondering if the stranger liked honey and wondering if he should ask whether he had any with him. “You don’t look like Piglet’s grandfather,” said the bear.

“I’m not” the stranger replied with an affectionate grin. “But then you always were an astute bear.”

“I was?” asked Pooh.

“Most assuredly,” the stranger said.

Pooh squinted and licked the tip of his nose in a thoughtful way. Then he smiled a smile of recognition. “It’s you” he said.

“And it’s you,” Christopher Robin replied.

“You’ve been gone” Pooh observed as the two of them walked deeper into the wood. They were going in the direction of Pooh’s house.

“Did you have adventures while you were away?”

They had come to a clearing where one of Pooh’s favorite sunbeams shone down on the forest floor. The two of them stopped to rest and sat with their backs against the same great oak tree. Pooh glanced into its branches to see if there were any bees buzzing nearby.

“You might say that I did” Christopher Robin replied.

“I might?” Pooh asked. “Would I like to?”

“Silly bear” Christopher Robin said.

So Christopher Robin began to tell Pooh about all of his adventures. Some of them seemed quite grand to Pooh. But being a bear of very little brain, he did not understand many of them. One was about a beautiful princess named Jane. There were battles and castles and sometimes things that made Christopher Robin go silent, as the dew gathered at the corner of his eyes.

“I’m sixty now, Pooh” Christopher Robin said.

“That seems like a very large number” said Pooh, who had never been very good at doing sums.

“It is not so very large while you are counting up to it,” said Christopher Robin. “It only seems large after you have finished and you are looking back.”

“I understand,” said Pooh, even though he did not.

“Will you be going away again to have more adventures?” Pooh asked.

“Oh, Bear,” Christopher Robin said affectionately, as the dew gathered once more at the corners of his eyes.

By now the sunbeam had moved on and the shadows had begun to gather in the spot where they sat. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but Pooh now thought that his old friend looked just like he had remembered. He wondered why he had not recognized him at first.

But the question made Pooh sleepy. And he thought the sunbeam might have gone on ahead to shine in the window of his house and warm the seat of his favorite chair.

“I think it’s supper time,” Pooh said. “Shall we go over to my house and have a little something?”

“Yes, I’d like that very much,” said Christopher Robin.

So they did.

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