Honah Lee. Or Honalee, depending on the source you go to for the lyrics to "Puff, the Magic Dragon," a folk rock classic that churned repeatedly through my eight-track tape player some forty years ago. Peter, Paul, and Mary released that song in 1962, when, according to funtrivia.com, it also rose to #2 on the Billboard charts.
However you want to spell it, Honah Lee refers to the imaginary land where a little boy named Jackie Paper "frolicked in the autumn mist" with a big green dragon named "Puff." If you check it out on YouTube you will learn or be reminded that "Puff" is about the carefree but transient nature of childhood itself.
This week I have revisited the likes of Honah Lee with my grandson Pooh. On one particular imagination-imbued day in the pool I (quite capably, if I may be so bold) played the role of a crocodile in scaly, sharp-toothed pursuit of Pooh and Pa-pa. Pooh assumed the role of Sid, the bad kid from Toy Story, and Pa-pa was Sid's pet shark (of course Sid would have a pet SHARK), aptly named "Sharky" (which Pooh, at age three, pronounces like "Shawky").
Doing this must have dredged up from the deep, dark depths of my subconscious, some inkling of the old, familiar song, because that night it found its way into our bedtime repertoire. Somehow, I remembered every word, stumbling only momentarily over "painted wings and giant rings." Sometimes I think an old eight-track tape must play continuously in my head, and once in a while something said or happening turns up the volume enough for me to once again catch the lyrics to those old songs I learned many years ago by heart. This was the case with "Puff."
Pooh fell asleep on my lap right about the time Puff "sadly slipped into his cave." How ironic, I thought, looking down at Pooh's legs, finally growing long enough to dangle floorward off my knees. This was likely to be one of the last times I would get to rock him to sleep. He is quickly outgrowing my lap. "One gray night," not too long from now, he will be too big for me to rock.
Not that my lap is about to be empty. After all, Pooh has an almost-two-year-old sister, a five-week old brother and a four-month-old cousin who are lining up to keep the spot occupied for the next several years. I'm not worried about empty lap syndrome just yet.
But I will dearly miss this particular little boy. As Peter, Paul, and Mary tell us, "A dragon lives forever but not so little boys." Like little Jackie Paper, Pooh will move on to "other toys" that don't involve Googie's lap and this precious bedtime ritual of ours.
When that happens, a few "green scales [may fall] like rain" once again. But wait a minute--I'm not a dragon; I am a crocodile. There are some glorious late summer days left. Sid and Sharky had better just keep their guard up.