Once upon a time my boy was small and I read stories to him every night. Make that morning, noon, and night! Somehow he came out of the womb with a taste for swords and sorcery like his mama and the two of us sized one another up and knew we would get on together just fine. When he was three he wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween because it was one of his favorite movies.
Of course, now he's not so small:
But even though so many other things have crowded in to fill up his days, things like going to school and doing his homework and playing with friends, we still read together every night in the Big Bed. And a few nights ago we finished the fourth Henry Huggins book and he asked me for something different. So we wandered into the library and I scoured the shelves for just the right book. My eyes lighted on that small paperback copy of Peter Pan I bought on a sentimental whim in Nottingham years ago thinking someday I'd want to read it with my children. It seems that, amazingly, that time has come. We started it that night.
And, honestly, is there a more magical book out there? I had forgotten. It's been so long since I last read it. And, of course, reading it on this side of childhood is an entirely different matter. No less magical, though a good deal more bittersweet. But reading it to Will has been the most wonderful experience and I don't want it to end. I find myself snatching glances at his face to catch the wonder written so plainly there. I'm mesmerized by the chapter titles: "The Island Come True," "The Never Bird," "Do You Believe in Fairies?" By my son acting out the fighting scenes as I read them. I catch my breath sometimes it's so beautiful. Or when we read the following passage:
It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can't) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.
and he turned to me and whispered, "Do you do that?"
And, of course, we both loved this exchange between Peter and Wendy:
"You see I don't know any stories. None of the lost boys knows any stories."
"How perfectly awful," Wendy said.
"Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories. O Wendy, your mother was telling you such a lovely story."
"Which story was it?"
"About the prince who couldn't find the lady who wore the glass slipper."
"Peter," said Wendy excitedly, "that was Cinderella, and he found her, and they lived happy ever after."
Peter was so glad that he rose from the floor, where they had been sitting, and hurried to the window.
"Where are you going?" she cried with misgiving.
"To tell the other boys."
"Don't go, Peter," she entreated, "I know such lots of stories."
Those were her precise words, so there can be no denying that it was she who first tempted him.
He came back, and there was a greedy look in his eye now which ought to have alarmed her, but did not.
"Oh, the stories I could tell to the boys!" she cried, and then Peter gripped her and began to draw her towards the window.
"Let me go!" she ordered him.
"Wendy, do come with me and tell the other boys."
Of course she was very pleased to be asked, but she said, "Oh dear, I can't. Think of mummy! Besides, I can't fly."
"I'll teach you."
"Oh, how lovely to fly."
"I'll teach you how to jump on the wind's back, and then away we go."
"Oo!" she exclaimed rapturously.
"Wendy, Wendy, when you are sleeping in your silly bed you might be flying about with me saying funny things to the stars."
"And, Wendy, there are mermaids."
"Mermaids! With tails?"
"Such long tails."
We have two chapters left and he's eager to find out "what happens," while I feel something akin to despair at the thought of closing the cover. I just want to prolong the spell awhile longer. But, I suppose, unlike Wendy and the Neverland, I can always come back to this book. No matter how much I forget, how grown-up I become, or how big my little boy gets.
Have you ever read Peter Pan on your own or with your children? Tell me.