Mother Hen Goes to Neverland – Part Three

continued from Part Two: “Finally, we reached the main entrance to the PAC. “Here we go…” I thought, ready to greet a roomful of identically dressed children hanging on the arms of their loving and indulgent mother. But boy, was I was wrong…

~

Well, there were lots of children there, but they were dressed to the nines in…real clothes.

Not one Tinkerbell.

Not one Wendy.

Only one Peter Pan.

That’s right, ONE.

And he happened to be attached to my hip.

All of a sudden, I was faced with a new and unexpected conundrum, the reality that a veritable spotlight was placed upon us as we made our way through the extremely crowded room, inside the ladies restroom and eventually back out, and up the stairs and across the mezzanine, accepting the compliments and the delighted stares of every. single. person. we. passed. The children and senior adults we walked by were especially taken by my little lost boy, and Gideon received lots of waves from little ones even younger than he was, their mouths slightly hanging open to see Peter Pan right in their midst.

You know, I always think I will enjoy the spotlight…until I’m in it. To say my cheeks were burning would be a bit of an understatement.

“Why is everyone looking at me and waving at me?” Gideon asked me, and I wondered if, for the first time, my sheltered son might be realizing that not everyone goes everywhere dressed in costume.

“Oh, I don’t know, Gid…” I responded with a small smirk on my face.

“My name’s not Gid. It’s Peter.” he replied matter-of-factly.

“Well…that’s why everyone is looking at you and waving at you. You’re Peter Pan!” I muttered.

And then something even more unexpected happened to poor Mrs. Gore.

Right there, standing in line to have our tickets scanned so we could enter the theater, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, Small Elephant decided to make an uninvited appearance.

In other words, the impact of this meaningful night with my son hit me with full force, and a huge, dramatic, hormonally-charged lump began to form in my throat. I’m always sentimental. But when I’m pregnant…I’m a basketcase.

And when it was Gideon’s turn to hand the attendant his ticket, and he stepped up like a big boy and held up his paper, a shy and excited expression on his precious little face, the lump in my throat grew unswallowable as tears began to burn at the back of my eyes.

Good grief, get a grip!” I furiously said to myself as I tried to take deep breaths and refrain from breaking down in front of an entire roomful of folks…folks who were already looking at us because of the bright green costume and matching cap (topped with a yellow felt feather).

But then the elderly attendant looked down and saw that Peter Pan himself was handing her a ticket for the show and she smiled so big and said “Well, hello, Peter Pan!” before looking at me and beaming at the cuteness that was before her.

Gideon smiled. My Mom chuckled. And I…Small Elephant…released some sort of manic, breathy laugh that was two seconds away from being a sob. Looking down, I pasted a smile on my face and continued to nervously giggle as I rapidly blinked away my tears, wishing that we could all just have a moment of silence to take in this moment without having the entire waiting audience watch Peter Pan’s pregnant mother have a meltdown in the mezzanine.

It was one of the most wonderful and awful moments of my life.

Lord, have mercy.

Well, somehow, we finally made it inside the theater, gasping at the amazing scene set up on the stage, and, finding our seats, I was able to fan myself for a minute with my program and get control of myself once more. “I’m a little emotional right now,” I confided to the man and woman to my left, “so if I start weeping, just ignore me. I’m fine.”

“Oh, I’m assistant to an OBGYN, so I see crying women all the time. We won’t even mention it.” the woman replied, leaning over her husband to get a better look at the pregnant spectacle next to him.

Before too long, the lights thankfully dimmed, and the magic that is Peter Pan played out before our very eyes, and for the next two hours I was caught between the beauty of the story, the set, the costumes and the music, and the pure pleasure of watching my baby watch all of the above. Peter Pan is the perfect tale, is it not, for a little boy with an imagination and a heart as big as the sky, and I could kiss J.M. Barrie (or at least give him a thimble) for crafting a timeless story of boyhood that continues to resonate so deeply today, while beautifully paying homage to motherhood and family at the same time.

Gideon belly laughed at every funny scene. He clapped enthusiastically after every musical number. And when he reached out and held my hand during the mother’s lullaby, those pesky tears gathered in my eyes once more as I meditated on the past 6 years, on all we’d been through together, and on how gracious is the God of the universe to give him to me and me to him.

And, while it was a real treat to see the amazing Cathy Rigby in action (seriously…she cannot be 60 years old! AMAZING, and I told my husband that what she is able to do on the stage is much more impressive than if Peter Pan was actually real and could actually fly!), I was very grateful that we were just far back enough that Gideon couldn’t see that she was, in fact, a woman. That just wouldn’t have gone over well a’tall.

I could go into great detail about all of my favorite scenes, about the graceful and lovely Tigerlilly, about the fabulous and glittery pixie dust that was thrown all over the place, but I’ll just say that, of the many theatrical performances I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying over the years, this play was, by far, my favorite. Magical. Hilarious. Entertaining from start to finish. If you ever get the chance to see it, please do…and tell them that Mrs. Gore sent you. (I’m a favorite in Neverland, you know).

At the show’s conclusion, my Mom and I took turns hefting Gideon up to see each of the cast members run out to take a bow and wave at the audience, and the huge grin on my son’s face and his wide-awake eyes at such a late hour told me that his first trip to the theater had been a roaring success.

But the show wasn’t quite over yet…

Holding up her hands to quiet the crowd, Cathy Rigby herself made an announcement, that the cast would be in the lobby to help raise funds for AIDS victims and breast cancer survivors, and that, for $5, you could get your picture taken with Captain Hook…

(I inwardly gasped. What a perfect way to end our night, and how fun for my little Peter Pan to have a real picture with the Cap’n as opposed to his Mama in a mustache).

…OR, for $500 you could have your name entered into a raffle to win an opportunity to come back later in the week and fly with Peter Pan on stage.

(I inwardly guffawed. $500. Ha!).

And then I heard a little voice beside me yell out “I wanna fly!! I wanna fly with Peter Pan!”

(And I inwardly groaned. Thanks a lot, “Peter Pan”…you are now dead to me).

After some final applause, as the crowd began to disperse, we sat back down in our seats to get Gideon’s boots put back in place and to find all of our stuff (my big bag of Red Vines, included). “Hey Gid…” I breeched, “we don’t have enough money to fly with Peter Pan. But we could get your picture with Captain Hook!”

“But I want to fly!” he pleaded, looking at the stage with longing.

“We just can’t,” I said. “It’s too expensive.”

“Ohhhh…” he whimpered, and I hoped that the night hadn’t just lost some of its magic for him.

As we made our way back down to the main lobby, Gid’s hand in mine, he said, hopefully, “Do you think you could just tell Peter Pan that we don’t have that much money, and maybe he’ll let us come fly with him anyway?…”

I laughed at his innocence, and Mom and I directed him to the line where Captain Hook was already taking pictures with his fans. “There’s Peter Pan!” I heard the Captain yell out as we walked by, pointing at us and waving.

“Yep…” I thought, waving back, “we’re still here! Peter Pan and his Mom and Grandmother…” We continued to receive stares and waves as the lobby eventually thinned out, and my cheeks hurt from receiving and returning smile after smile. It was like prom night all over again.

But the most difficult part of the entire night wasn’t trying to convince Gideon that we didn’t have $500 or finding the willpower to smile at passersby, but to keep my son from seeing Cathy Rigby as she autographed posters right across the room.

“Where’s Peter Pan?” he asked as we continued to wait in line.

“I don’t know…” I bald-face-lied, as Mom and I shuffled around to block his view of her. We had made it this far – he couldn’t find out that Peter Pan was played by a…a girl!…when we were so close to our departure!

“Hey! There he is!” he said, slipping around me and spotting Cathy Rigby at the table right beyond me. I held my breath as, immediately, a puzzled expression crossed his face and he asked, confused, “Hey…what happened to Peter Pan?!”

“Ummm…” I responded, before blurting that “the little boy who played Peter must have had to get to bed – it’s so late! – and that’s just another Peter Pan saying ‘hi’ to everyone.”

We all know that one lie always leads to another. But believe me when I say my hands were tied.

Gideon just nodded. “Oh. Yeah.” Made perfect sense to him.

But when it was all said and done, we had our picture with Captain Hook…

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we left without Gideon figuring out that Peter Pan was played by a woman…

and we decided that, someday, he might get another chance to fly with Peter, and that, for now, seeing his first play was a pretty big treat. Before leaving, he gathered up and threw some pixie dust that was left on the ground…

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and we flew back home to our nursery on the second floor where my little boy belongs.

I hugged him tight.

I tucked him in.

And I kissed his forehead and cupped his soft still-a-5-year-old cheek in my hand, memorizing his face, and this night, for safekeeping.

“Sweet dreams…” I said, knowing that, tonight, they were almost guaranteed.

~

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.”

Peter Pan

A Boy Called Peter

The pants of his Peter Pan costume were hitting far above the ankle.

The shirt was getting more difficult to slip over his head.

And Gideon began to cry…

“Mom, I just really don’t want to grow up anymore.”

“What’s the matter, Gid?” I asked, concerned by this sudden outburst.

“I mean, I want to be 6 on my next birthday, but not any more grown. That’s as grown as I want to be!” he wailed.

And that’s when it hit me.

The Peter Pan costume.

“Gid…” I said, about to cry, myself. “You know we can get you a new Peter Pan costume, right?”

~

He first wore that costume almost 3 years ago…

It was Halloween 2009, and Peter Pan was an obvious choice, for the classic Disney movie had seemingly been the theme of our year – we had watched it countless times. And when we weren’t watching it, we were playing pirates or flying through the house or seeing mermaids in the lake…

{This was, by the way, fitting rather nicely into my master plan, for Peter Pan is one of those clutch-to-my-chest stories that had defined my childhood, my adolescence, my young adulthood…and I was determined to find a way to keep it around}.

Gideon’s cousin Abigail dressed the part of Wendy, her sister Anna represented Tinkerbell, and the happy trio had the best time traipsing and flitting around town with their Halloween treat bags on their arms that perfect October night. (and I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess who dressed as Cap’n Hook – more on that when October gets here!)

But just because Halloween was over the next morning did not mean that Gideon was going to put his costume up in the attic for keepsake memories, or even in the closet for other days…

He lived in it.

He ate in it.

He slept in it.

He wore it…

All. the. time.

And just like his childish hero, he had many wonderful adventures in this special costume.

One day, when he was about 4 years old, he was invited to accompany my husband and our friend, Zac, to a local sporting goods store to buy supplies for the church softball team.

When Mr. Gore came to pick him up from our house in the church van, Gideon was, not surprisingly, dressed as Peter Pan from head to toe, his little foam sword tucked snugly into his Peter Pan belt.

If you think Mr. Gore was embarrassed to be accompanied on an outing with a miniature Peter Pan, you’d be wrong, for in truth, my husband is the one who has taught me to lighten up and let our kids wear what they will (on most days). Thus, he met our son with a huge smile, and complimented him right away. Gideon…er, Peter…ran straight to his arms, excited to be included with the big boys on this fun trip to “town”.

As he turned to wave good-bye to me, that little green hat with a brown feather sticking up in the air, my heart constricted, and I took a mental snapshot of my little lost boy. “If Peter Pan had been this loved by his mother,” I thought, “he never would have stayed in Neverland all those years…”

Off they flew to the sporting goods store, and everything was reportedly ticking along quite nicely…

until Mr. Gore was checking out at the cash register, waiting for the cashier to ring up and bag the many items that needed to be purchased for the softball team.

During the long wait, Gideon had apparently wandered over to take a look at the clothing section behind him…

and the room suddenly exploded with noise.

Turning quickly around, Mr. Gore watched in amazement as clothing rack after clothing rack fell slowly over in domino fashion, one right after another, seven racks in all.

Boom!…

Boom!…

Boom, boom, boom, boom!…

BOOM!

The “dust” settled, clothes lying everywhere, and there in the clearing stood none other than our Peter Pan, his sword raised defensively in his right hand, his eyes as round as saucers.

Where was his pixie dust when he needed it?! For I am quite sure he would have flown the coop if he could have.

As Mr. Gore recounted the hilarity to me when he returned home, I gasped “How did it happen?!”

“We’re not really sure…” he admitted.

“Well what did you do? What did the cashier do?!” I asked, my hand over my mouth.

“We just stood there for a few seconds, and started laughing.” he replied.

As my husband helped the young cashier clean up the mess, he continued to apologize profusely.

“Dude…don’t worry about it man, ” the cashier assured him, “when am I ever going to get to tell a story like this again?…’everything fell over, and there in the middle of it was…Peter Pan.’

It was an epic moment in Mr. Gore’s life, in Zac’s life, in Gideon’s life, and in mine…even though I was not there to witness it firsthand.

Gideon is 5 years old now, and still occasionally squeezes into his beloved costume, a new (and permanent) Wendy-bird by his side:

He won’t stay little forever and he will certainly outgrow that costume in the months to come…

but I pray his adventures never stop.