In the movie, ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’, the grown-up Christopher confronts his father who has commercialized the son’s persona: ‘You weren’t writing a story, you were doing research.’
A.A. Milne feels the force and truth of his son’s accusation. Lifelong the son would refuse to accept any of the vast proceeds of the stories and poems that grew from a father’s love of words and a boy.
Two years ago a friend confronted me in pain and in anger: ‘When we talked I thought we were
speaking as two friends. But you were there as a writer.’ I felt the force of his pain and the truth of my treachery. In time my friend gave me the great gift of forgiveness but a feeling of shame lingers.
My mother used to read the Christopher Robin stories to me when I was very young. Oddly I don’t recall reading them to my own children, but when my first two grandchildren were aged about three I’d push them to my mother’s house, where we four would eat cakes and pastries and I’d read aloud
the poems from ‘When We Were Very Young.’ My mother and I felt strangely moved. The children seemed to enjoy the ritual; they certainly enjoyed the cakes. The lines, Do you have a rabbit/
I do like rabbits/But they didn’t have a rabbit/Not anywhere there… always lumped up my throat.
I did not need to turn and look to know Mum’s eyes were misting as I read.
I imagine those lines will always bring back to those grandchildren some primordial sensation, some thrill or echo of my ancient loves: my love of words, my mother’s love for those words, our love of the
sharing, our love for those cake-stuffed tenderlings whom I held on my knee.
Those children are bigger now. Soon they will be grown up. And they’ll watch their grandfather the word lover as he plunders life and writes his loves, and struggles with his traitor’s heart.