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

Mother Hen Goes to Neverland – Part Two

So enough about my parenting philosophies and my 1500-word glowing endorsement of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan…let’s get to the actual show!

~

On Thursday morning last, I whispered to Gideon that he would not be taking a nap with his sisters that afternoon, but would be going somewhere very special with me and his Grandmother to receive an early birthday gift. His eyes lit up and he leaned in closely to whisper back excited nothings and to make sure I knew that he could keep a secret, and he spent the rest of the morning making exaggerated conspiratorial faces at me and patting Rebekah consolingly, even though she had no idea that when she woke up from her nap, we would have flown to Neverland without her. Our poor little Wendy girl…

But for that matter, Gideon had no idea we were going to Neverland, although I did divulge that his early gift was that we were taking him to his very first play…just so he wouldn’t spend the day conjuring up unrealistic birthday surprises of like, I don’t know, a helicopter ride or his very own living T-Rex.

“A play?” he asked, intrigued, “Like the one at Gabbie’s Kindergarten?!”

“Ummmm…it will be a little bit bigger than that.” I told him, my excitement growing into a fluttery little pit in my stomach.

By 1:00 p.m., the girls were asleep under Papa’s care, and we were on our way, an afternoon of relaxation and shopping – and food! – on the horizon, followed by our big night at the Performing Arts Center. I was kind of beside myself.

Gideon was such a good sport, sitting through a couple of hours at Anthropologie and A Pea in the Pod as his Mama got outfitted in a new maternity wardrobe: a week before, I had retrieved my maternity clothes from the attic to find that what remained was something they might dress a P.O.W in during a long Russian winter, and I nearly cried on the spot. The next day, my Mom offered to have mercy on me and take me for a little shopping spree if I could manage to get away early. I managed, and although I suppose we normally wouldn’t celebrate a little boy’s birthday by going shopping for maternity clothes, sometimes, necessity just calls with an urgency.

We broke up the monotony for him, though, with a short trip to Pottery Barn Kids, and then a 3:00 dessert at our favorite eatery in Tulsa, Queenie’s Plus. And please excuse me while I chase a rabbit…

Gideon was a curmudgeon of a baby (click here for more). He was claustrophobic, and grumpy and shackled by his own infancy, and I honestly couldn’t take him anywhere. Except for Queenie’s. They have an outdoor seating area on the sidewalk, and it became a refuge for us those first two years of his life – Mom and I could eat in peace, and he would happily watch the birds hopping around as he took in unlimited fresh air and solitude. It was the first public place I took him after he was born, and it was nearly THE only place we ate out until he was just past 2 years old.

And so there was something extremely touching about returning to that sidewalk table with him on this very monumental day as we sipped on coffee (and milk for him) and munched on our favorite desserts. I kept looking at him, trying to reconcile the little boy before me with the little baby I had brought here so frequently in years past, and I had to ask myself once more, “How is it possible that you can watch nearly every moment of their growth but not see it take place? Where did my baby go, dagnabit?!”

Anyhow, I am so grateful to have a place like Queenie’s to celebrate our special occasions, and the staff made such a big ado over Gideon’s upcoming birthday, even sending home some complimentary muffins to help him further celebrate the next morning. My heart was just overwhelmed to have this moment, at this place that had become like a second home to us over the years…

And it was here that my Mom handed Gideon a long, rectangular box wrapped in green and brown tissue paper and tied up with green string.

“Open it,” she said, “and it will help you guess which play we’ll be seeing tonight.”

Grinning, he tore into the box, eyes shining with that beautiful expression of innocent joy that children seem to have exclusive rights to.

Inside the package lay a brand new, size 7 Peter Pan costume, one that would actually fit! And one that would probably ensure that everyone we pass while Gideon is still wearing it to Wal-Mart as an 11-year old will know that he is homeschooled. His coolness will know no bounds…and it was as if Mom and I both realized at the same moment that we had not carried out this idea to it’s conclusion as it sunk in that we would be seeing this new costume for many, many years…well past the “cute” stage and more into the “sad” stage. Oh, well. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

“We’re going to see ‘Peter Pan’?!” he exclaimed.

Mom and I, leaning down at his eye level, hanging on his every word and reaction, laughed and giggled and clapped until I’m sure that everyone nearby either wanted to cry tears of sentimentality or maybe disgust at our obvious and overdone doting. Sorry, onlookers. We’re in love with the boy.

“Can I wear my new costume to the play?!” he asked.

“Uhhhhh…” I said, conflicted, for as eager as I was for him to get to wear his new costume and to match Peter Pan, you might remember that I had sworn when we saw Beauty and the Beast with my nieces that I would refrain from ever dressing my kid to match the star of the show we were seeing…unless we would be the only ones in costume, at a show like, say “Fiddler on the Roof”.

I was slightly joking when I said it, but not really, and now, as usual, my words were coming back to haunt me, and I cringed at the idea that I would look like an overindulgent mother as I toted around my own miniature Peter Pan among a sea of little boys and girls in Peter Pan and Tinkerbell costumes…

But later that night, after some more shopping and a fantastic supper at The Olive Garden, in the parking lot of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Gideon excitedly tore off his clothes and donned his brand new true-to-size costume, taking meticulous care in tucking his pants into his boots and securing his waist belt just so. As we made our way across the street and down the sidewalk, we had to stop every 5 steps or so to allow him to adjust his pants, his boots, his hat…

But 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 mothers…

But boy, was I was wrong…

~

Did I say we would actually get to the play today? My mistake! But tune in tomorrow…the Grand Finale is coming up next!

(Read Part Three here).