In 1927 A. A. Milne published a book of silly poetry entitled “Now We Are Six.” In his introduction Milne stated that “…the name of the book doesn’t mean that this is us being six all the time, but that it is about as far as we’ve got at present, and we half think of stopping there.” In his post script he informs us further that “Pooh wants us to say that he thought it was a different book; and he hopes you won’t mind, but he walked through it one day, looking for his friend Piglet, and sat down on some of the pages by mistake.”
There is nothing like the philosophy of Winnie the Pooh to bring us all back to our six year old selves.
Over these past several days, many of us have sat glued to our television and computer screens, devastated by the stories of loss at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When it became evident that the majority of the shooting victims were a group of six year olds…we couldn’t believe it. At first we thought they were unfortunate bystanders, caught up in a sick family drama. We imagined a son arriving at the school looking to harm his mother, who we were informed, was a teacher there. We later learned that not only was his mother not a teacher at the elementary school, but that she had been shot and killed at her home earlier that morning. These children were not merely unlucky bystanders…they were the actual targets. This idea was incomprehensible.
What I’ve heard many people say is “…as a parent…” they can’t understand the shooter’s actions. I would just like to go on record and state “as a human being…” I can’t understand these actions. I am not a mother…but there is not a cell in my body that does not ache for these children and their families. But I think it goes even deeper then whether “as a parent” we feel especially protective of these children…because when it comes down to it…every one of us was once a six year old. We can all remember what it felt like to be six. Go ahead…give it a try…what do you remember? What was your favorite thing about being six?
I was a lucky, carefree six year old. My family lived in a new subdivision on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains just north of Los Angeles. We had a swimming pool that occupied a good deal of our time. My sister and I would dive down to pick up the change our father threw into the deep end of the pool. My favorite thing in the world was our cat Sam. He was quite content to sit in front of the television with me while I watched Captain Kangaroo as he knew I’d always share my bowl of Fritos. I loved dolls, especially Madame Alexander dolls. On my sixth birthday I received five dollars from my grandparents. I took that money and an extra dollar from my mom and bought the bridal doll, a particular Madame Alexander I had coveted. I loved drawing and coloring and building things…with my Lego’s and Lincoln Logs. I could spend hours in my room alone, happily creating all sorts of worlds. I loved books. I loved my stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh. We had a tether-ball court in our side yard and when I went to kindergarten I found I was good at the game. Recess meant climbing on the jungle gym and playing Batman & Robin and four-square. When I was six there was nothing I couldn’t do or imagine. There was nothing much to worry about. Once or twice something scary crossed my path. We had interesting critters that came down out of the mountains to swim in our pool. Furry things were exciting… slimy ones were not. I was scared of brush fires. We had several occasions when we stood watch as the flames threatened to come down the hills toward our home…dad was on the roof hosing down our house to prevent the embers from taking hold, the family car was gassed up and packed with our most treasured belongings. The saddest thing I remember was when a school friend of mine was hit and killed by a car. Somewhere down deep inside I will always remember that sadness, not my own, but the sadness of those around me…the little boy’s mother and especially my own parents as they held me tighter in the days that followed.
The man (boy really) who walked into Sandy Hook Elementary did not just kill those twenty children. He attacked the six year old in all of us. He reached inside each of us and grabbed hold of that happy innocent place where anything was possible and the unthinkable was unimaginable. Our world is forever changed.
When I was One, I had just begun.
When I was Two, I was nearly new.
When I was Three, I was hardly Me.
When I was Four, I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever. So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.
A.A. Milne (from Now We are Six)