This is the story of how Winnie the Pooh made a difference in my life, and in the lives of my family members a few weeks before and directly after the 9–11 tragedy on September 11th, 2001.
Once upon a time there was a woman who had enriched her life by embracing extended family members on two continents. Every day, she thought of them and about how she could stay connected with them and get to know them better. One day she found out that a new baby was expected by a family member over in Finland. Because of that, she began to save her money and make a plan to visit, soon after the baby was born. And because of that, she was able to visit during her summer break from teaching in August of 2001. Until finally, she arrived in the small town of Karkkila, Finland and met a beautiful baby girl…
“You’ll never return to Finland. You won’t be here to watch her grow up.”
Those words are burned into my memory forever, though they no longer have the sting they did two decades ago.
She was fourteen months old when I held her for the first time. Shy and sweet and oh, so beautiful. Our eyes met and she kissed me on my nose. Her blond hair and blue eyes captivated me from the moment I’d arrived. So I did not wait to give her the present I had brought for her from America.
“Winnie the Pooh,” she softly whispered as I placed the small bear in her outstretched arms.
“She already speaks English,” I exclaimed, and her parents smiled broadly. We took Winnie the Pooh for a walk in the park and played together in a pile of leaves. Everything was perfect on that day as I dreamed of a future on two continents with the people I love more than life itself.
These people are a part of my extended family in Finland and they mean the world to me. On that particular day, August 23rd, 2001 I was jet-lagged but happy. After carefully planning and saving up for this trip since before Emily had been born, I was finally under the same roof and looking forward to our visit.
This was not my first grandchild, yet I was experiencing something I had not felt before. Was Winnie the Pooh responsible for the deep connection that was building? The stuffed bear became a special friend for both of us that week. They were inseparable…