once worried about the nuclear Tigger. The Serbian colonel with the unpronounceable name called it a trigger but that seemed silly. It was 1962 and bad Russia had its finger on the Tigger. So did good America. Poor Tigger.
I never really read Winnie-the-Pooh. In fact, I didn’t read at all. I did like pictures. From them, I picked up on Christopher Robin (boring), Pooh (indolent), Eeyore (sullen) and Tigger, my favorite tiger at the time and probably my most beloved animal — short of any given dinosaurs, which for whatever reason were drawn very much alike in books.
I didn’t have a teddy bear or a bed companion of any kind. Instead, I had my mind, and my mind made Tigger into something of a kindred spirit, feline, ferocious and fussy, very much like me. What Tigger was not was nuclear. Tigger, my Tigger, knew little about fission, radioactivity and eggheads. He roared (or hissed) at Einstein and Oppenheimer. He would have done the same at the Serbian colonel, our frequent cocktail-hour guest, had been allowed to enter the room, which he wasn’t, since he would have left fur.
Still, Tigger came up often. Adults stole him from me in lengthy conversations. Who would pull the Tigger first, Moscow or Washington? What would the overkill ratio be — 50 million of them, 15 million of us? Once the Tigger was pulled, what would the earth become, if there was any left over?
I knew the answer but couldn’t speak. Tigger wouldn’t be pulled, ever. Tigger was smart and independent and above all intrigued by the idea of living forever. Why should Tigger pull or be pulled or do anything that would cancel him from the crayons of a charmed existence, one he shared with me?
When these men went on about Tigger’s nuclear proclivities I wondered what on earth they could be thinking. Survival is the mission of boys and tigers alike. So what about Cubans and their missiles and their crises? So what about Russian threats and Washington admonishments? So what about spy planes?
One night, emboldened, I told the Serbian colonel in no uncertain terms that everything would be all right in the end. Tigger didn’t have his finger on anything, nuclear or otherwise. He might be interested in honey. And bouncing, of course. But none of this should be exaggerated. World dominance mattered less than thistle or malt. Or even Roo (which I didn’t mention to the Serbian colonel, not knowing the proper protocol).
He, the colonel, looked at me, and then my father, and said, “Confident boy.”
My father looked back at the colonel and said, “He’s just a boy.”
After which they returned to speculating about when Russia and America would pull the nuclear Tigger, stubbornly unaware, then as now, that the world was safely in my keep, and that whatever the adult reversals of any given day, worry hauled around like timber, a tiger remained a match for them all, and always will.