When Dante was much younger, I read him all the A.A. Milne Pooh stories. Multiple times, even. I love those books. Their wordplay and wit never gets old for me, and I find their emotional core incredibly moving. Plus, Eeyore is hilarious. He’s easily one of the most caustic, sarcastic characters in children’s literature, and I appreciate him way more now as an adult than I ever did as a kid. They’re all very funny, but Eeyore is the best.
Dante listened to the stories, but I don’t think they ever really hooked him. Recently, that all changed. He was digging around for a DVD to watch, and came across our copy of The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh. Again, we’d bought the movie a while ago, but I don’t think he’d ever gotten more than 10 minutes into it — too freaked out by the bees in the opening vignette. This time, he sat down with it, and he was still freaked out by the bees, but I sat with him and he got through it.
After that, he was fascinated. He immediately started assigning roles, as he does — “You be Pooh and I’ll be Christopher Robin! Now I’ll be Kanga and you be Roo!” He dug out the books and read them through, and dug into his stuffed animals to pull out “the Pooh friends”, as he calls them. These are a classic-style Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore, along with a dressed-for-winter version of Pooh sent by some friends long ago. He augmented these with a plush bunny and a plush eagle, repurposed as Rabbit and Owl. Kanga and Roo are a little harder to fill in, but he’s got a mama bear and baby bear that do the trick. He pulled out a couple of Pooh audiobook CDs that have been sitting neglected for ages in his CD collection — suddenly he was listening to those every night, and watching our Pooh DVDs over and over again.
I even took him to the new Winnie The Pooh movie that came out this summer. It was his first cinema movie, and it seemed tailor-made, since a) he’s so into Pooh right now and b) I’d read several reviews saying that it was very gentle, and an ideal first movie for kids. I told him this, and at first he seemed eager, but when the day arrived he got pretty gun-shy. I cajoled him quite a bit to get him there, which felt a little weird — it’s always unclear how far to push the kid out of his comfort zone.
We came prepared with headphones — ear protection he sometimes wears in noisy environments — and I bought him a lemonade, his favorite drink. Even so, it was pretty rough going. He ended up in my lap for a lot of the show, and a couple of times said to me, “I don’t think this is very gentle.” However, I did see him get captivated at several points, and by the end of the movie he’d discarded the headphones, though he wasn’t willing to leave my lap. I’m glad I took him, but I don’t think he’ll be clamoring to go back to the cinema anytime soon.
The experience didn’t put him off Pooh, though. The audiobooks have faded, and he’s no longer watching the DVDs every day, but those characters are daily players in the pretend games, and he’s got a whole relationship going with the “Pooh friends.” In fact, the stuffed Tigger and Piglet play a crucial role in the dance routines he’s making up for They Might Be Giants songs… but that’s another post altogether.