August 21,1920 Christopher Robin Milne was born, an only child to A. A. Milne. Christopher also wrote, his first two books, “Enchanted Places” and “The Path Through the Trees,“. being memoirs of his growing up and out from under the shadow of the fictional Christopher Robin. The first of these, written after both parents had died, has partly the tone of setting-the-record-straight, partly that of settling-the-score. Each day of writing, Milne said, was “like a session on the analyst’s couch” in an effort to look both his father and Christopher Robin in the eye.
Christopher Milne’s surest love in his first decade was for his Nanny, and for the fields, wood and river of the family’s weekend Sussex retreat. His feeling was that he was but “a part-time hobby” to his parents and that, had he suddenly disappeared, “I would certainly not have missed my father.” Amid the general resentment at parental neglect and exploitation, Milne singles out as being particularly rankling his father’s first, famous Christopher Robin poem, “Vespers” (When We Were Very Young, 1924):
“Little Boy kneels at the foot of the bed,
Droops on the little hands little gold head.
Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares!
Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.
God bless Mummy. I know that’s right.
Wasn’t it fun in the bath to-night?
The cold’s so cold, and the hot’s so hot.
Oh! God bless Daddy – I quite forgot.
If I open my fingers a little bit more,
I can see Nanny’s dressing-gown on the door.
It’s a beautiful blue, but it hasn’t a hood.
Oh! God bless Nanny and make her good….”
We just returned from our summer vacation after visiting our son and his family. What a wonderful time that passed all too quickly. I found this poem that I wanted to share this morning. The picture is of our grandson Jack, who will be 7 in October. He loves life and it shows in all that he does.
“I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.”
Reprinted from On the Wing, published by the University of Iowa Press.