As I night weaned my younger son, I wanted to sing a song that could comfort him in the same way my body did. While I had been playing recordings by Fleet Foxes and John Denver, I wanted something I could sing. Something beautiful, simple, special. It simply had to be The House on Pooh Corner.
The House on Pooh Corner and I go way back.
As I sat in the back of my mom’s red coupe on long road trips, we’d listen to my dad’s cassette tape of Loggins and Messina’s live album. My parents had the original record, but my dad cared enough to actually buy the cassette instead of taping it off the vinyl. As I peered out the window, I fiddled with its plastic case, moving the album notes in and out. The album cover graced the front of the notes, which was in an old-fashioned font and style. But then, all of my parents’ music was old-fashioned. At the time, I didn’t know that Kenny Loggins went on to a rather cheesy soft-rock career. Nor did I have a clue what the heck a “holiday hotel” was. All I knew was that I loved their melodies, especially on the song about Winnie the Pooh. I don’t recall the books from my childhood, but the character was part of the cultural background, especially the original animated movie. Listening as a preteen, it made me nostalgic in a way only a ten-year-old can be.
As a teenager, I encountered the song again working at Toys R Us. You might think working at a toy store would always be fun. But you would be wrong. While it was great the first summer, it sucked pretty badly the second. The linoleum floor hurt my back. The Barbies never stood up straight. The store soundtrack was the same 20 or so songs over and over again. Most of them were unlistenable, like the Chipmunks’ rendition of Achy Breaky Heart. (I dare you to click on it.) But among this suburban ennui was House on Pooh Corner. A couple times a shift, I would slow down and listen. I would dream of a time and place somewhere other than where I was, somewhere simple and lovely in the woods.
House on Pooh Corner returned again when I became a mom. When Sprout was first born, I spent many hours of his early weeks pacing our hallway. I sang whatever I could think of the words to, including The Ants Go Marching. Sometime in the long hours I spent with him on my lap, I looked up the lyrics to House on Pooh Corner. Until then, I had never read them closely, much less understood them. Now, they resonated. While I stumbled through the lyrics at first, I remembered a few more words each time, refreshing my memories with Google searches. As he grew older, we would sing it together, him mangling the lyrics in his high, mumbly little voice. But he still caught enough of the melody and rhythm that you could guess the song if you listened hard enough.
And now, I sing it to Little Bird every night. Since he now arches his entire body when I hold him in my arms, I place him in his crib and rub his back.
The lyrics have become engrained in me, coming to my lips at night in the same way that St. Francis’ prayer does every morning. The words of the singer about wandering too far from the woods and not being able to find his way back are now mine. But so are those about walking next to Christopher Robin through shadows lit up by the moon, in the same way that all four of us spotted bats on our back porch a few nights ago. And too, I now live those lyrics about the simple tasks of childhood, whether chasing all the clouds from the sky or building a Lego train. In the darkness of Little Bird’s room, these words fill the air with quiet melody, saying goodnight in song.
My children cannot bring me back to the Christopher Robin’s childhood or my own. But like our favorite characters, they give me a window into a land of wonder that we too often lose sight of as adults.