Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Never Grow Up, Never, Never Die

After mother's death, I spent years sorting through business. After sorting through a nine-foot stack of papers, I finally read a book she'd saved from her childhood Peter and Wendy, the novel Barrie wrote after the play, Peter Pan.
“All children, except one, grow up,” Barrie begins his story of Peter Pan. Of course that one person is oneself.
Peter’s last name, Pan, comes from the ancient Greek god whose name means “all.” We all have a childlike spirit, but as in the story, all of us age and lose touch with that spirit.
Out of the stiff, old pages fell a thin slip on which my mother had penciled elaborate scores for a game between sisters some rainy afternoon in the 1920s. My mother kept meticulous score of her weekly bridge game until her last illness. No one grows old to their own mind, though it may seem they are old to everyone else.
Barrie writes, “They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.’”
My cousin Tom and his wife Patricia sent me silent films his father took in the 1920s. No one ever mentioned them—they must have been untouched for almost a hundred years. I watched with a sense of recognition my mother as a young child. She jumped from a rock I’ve walked down myself, near our homes. She sat next to her mother, then reached up to embrace and kiss. And as clearly as if she were sitting before me, I felt her spirit, her love that strove always to share happiness, or, lacking fortune, to create it by sharing the gesture.
I was surprised at the surreal whimsy of Barrie’s writing, which seems so contemporary. He says that one’s mother goes through one’s thoughts when one sleeps like someone going through drawers.
“I don’t know whether you have ever seen a map of a person’s mind . . .. A map of a child’s mind is confused, and keeps going around all the time.” Inside it is Neverland.”