My Christopher Robin

two young women
The author (at right) and her friend

Come into the woods, where the branches underfoot creak with a satisfying sound, the wind whistles through the leaves, birds sing in welcome, and not too far away is Winnie the Poo. In front of the big old tree stands the chubby yellow bear. With a mouth filled with honey, he invites me into his warm home inside of the tree.

Winnie the Pooh was one of my favorite TV shows as a little girl and he was my childhood imaginary friend along with Eeyore the gloomy donkey, Piglet the timid pig, Kanga and her sun Roo, the energetic kangaroos and Rabbit and Owl the wise elders .

The cartoon show is about that chubby yellow honey-loving bear who lives in a forest with his dear companions. Throughout the show, Winnie gets into all kinds of trouble and goes on wonderful and magical adventures with his friends. A little boy appears in the cartoon as the human friend of all the other characters. His name is Christopher Robin.

As a child, I would wake up every weekend day to watch the show and then watch the same episode again at night when it was repeated. I would jump around like Tigger and try to imitate Pooh’s voice. I even started eating honey and veggies to be more like him and the friends. I always thought that when I grew up, I would have great friends like Winnie does. 

The show is fundamentally about friendship and how you can overcome obstacles faster and easier with their help, how life is much more fun in the presence of friends, and how friendship is one of the best things anyone could have.

In one of his adventures, Pooh hears bees in a treetop and believes they must be making honey. After unsuccessfully attempting to climb the tree, he uses a balloon to pretend he is a cloud, but the bees are suspicious. Deciding they were the wrong sort of bees, Pooh realizes he is unable to get down, and he asks for help from Christopher Robin, who pops the balloon with a gun. Ever since seeing that adventure, I have been on a hunt for my Christopher Robin — the friend who will help me find my honey.

At the end of 2020, I met my Christopher Robin. She is Zainab, my closest friend and the person who truly shows me the real meaning of friendship. 

A childhood without deep friendships

Since I was a child, I often changed schools because of my parents’ work. In sixth grade, I had to leave Palestine and travel to Malaysia because my father was studying for his master’s degree. I was put in an Arabic international school, and I did not bother to make long-lasting friendships because I believed that I would end up leaving the country at some point or be transferred to another school because we kept moving from one house to another. And so, although I was popular at school for being the new kid, I didn’t have real friends. Or more specifically, I didn’t bother to make any.

When my parents decided to come back to Palestine, I wasn’t surprised nor scared. I had known that day would come eventually. I wished I could say goodbye to my school mates and friends. I wished I had a best friend whom I could spend my last day with while I packed and who would come to the airport for a last hug and photo together. But there were none. So I left Malaysia and finally made it to Gaza.

I arrived home, said hi to the family and cousins — and that was it. No friends I made as a little kid came to visit, and no one invited me out for a tour of the city after all these years. For two whole months I had no friends whatsoever, until schools started. I met many of my schoolmates from primary school, but more than half of them didn’t recognize me.

School became a nightmare. No one liked me because I wasn’t able to talk Arabic as well as they could, and I would put an English word in every sentence. It was good with the teachers, as I was a quiet girl with great marks, but that only made it worse with the girls.

Two women with Winnie the Pooh dolls
The author says that Winnie is now her nickname
and that her friends say she is as  warm as Pooh and
gives sweet hugs like a teddy bear.

A great friend at long last

After all this high school drama, I was finally beginning to meet good people through work and volunteer experiences. That was when I got introduced to We Are Not Numbers. I started visiting the office and getting to know the other volunteers. That’s how I met her, Zainab, my best friend and greatest companion. She gave me the sweetest hug when we met face to face for the first time. 

We talked every day and started seeing how we have much in common. We shared happiness and sadness, failure and success, the good and the bad, a lot of songs and too much food. She was always and still is here for me, and I’m the same for her. We push each other to achieve more. We pick outfits together. We talk about everything and nothing at the same time.

Zainab is the friend I wouldn’t ever trade for the world, the one who is always in my prayers, the one I want to introduce to my children and tell my grandchildren about. She restored my faith in friendship, and I know for a fact that if I travel or move again, Zainab will be here for me.

I will do everything I can to keep her in my life, because I have realized that without her, coffee is a little more bitter than it should be, songs are never entertaining, TV shows are lame when I can’t tell her about them, the world is dull if she’s not around and news is not fun to bring except to her. She makes my life colorful and my adventures more fun. She is my wise owl, funny Tigger, cute Piglet, helpful Rabbit, loving Kanga and forever my dearest Christopher Robin.

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Mentor: Farrell Brody

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