As you know, Peter Pan has carved a special place in our lives, through Molly’s role as Peter Pan and Lucy’s love for the story, the show, the movie etc. Yet we had never read the original work by J.M. Barrie.
So for Christmas I purchased the book and gave it to Molly.
One of the great memories of my life is that of my Dad telling stories/ or reading to my siblings and I every night before bed. My brother and I had Dr. Suess’ “Green Eggs and Ham” memorized. Zorro was my favorite, but the stories I learned from the Book of Mormon and the Bible are priceless. That tradition is one of the greatest gifts given to me.
When Molly and I got married we made reading together one of our family activities. It is one of the reasons we chose the name Lucy. I read all seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia to Molly as we went to sleep each night while Molly was pregnant. Lucy was such a wonderful character….Queen Lucy the Valiant.
So this week we finished reading Peter Pan. Some of it was exactly what we knew and expected. Some of it was not. There are whole scenes in the theater production that are word for word from the book. And even the Disney animated version has elements that are exactly from the book. What surprised us were some of the things for adults in the book. It is to a large extent about growing up.
The very first paragraph starts “All children, except for one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way that Wendy knew was….…… but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
Peter Pan, as you know, is the child who never grows up. Peter comes to the window of the Darling family nursery to hear the stories that are told. We hoped as we read that Lucy would come to our window and sit at the foot of our bed and listen to the story that captured her heart.... It is a thought we have often.
Some of the story is quite silly and some of it profound and thought provoking. Parts of it seemed to be written just for Molly, Lucy and I. “There were odd stories about him; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened”. The idea of Lucy flying away with Peter created yet another special connection for us.
While reading, we discovered that while there is much that is fun about Peter Pan, there was much that we did not like about him. Peter is adventurous and brave, fun and exciting but he is also very self-centered. Wendy, Michael and John fly away with Peter and have the adventures that you already know about. They remain in Neverland for a long time but when they realize that they are forgetting parents and family relationships they finally decide to return home. J.M. Barrie writes about children being “heartless”; essentially that they don’t concern themselves with the heartaches and troubles of others. That is how Peter Pan is described. Peter returning to Wendy’s window years after their adventures even forgets that he knew Tinker Bell and Captain Hook, so consumed is he in his own life.
The book made me think about growing up, what does it really mean? A large part of it, I decided, is that we put others first. We work for the well being of others, we care about their sorrows, set backs, triumphs and happiness. In large part it implies becoming a parent, becoming like our Heavenly Father. Hasn’t our Heavenly Father, through our Savior, asked us to be like him? “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” Mathew 5:48.
My favorite line of the book came just a couple pages from the very the end. Wendy, after their adventures in Neverland, returned with Peter Pan a few times to help with spring-cleaning. But soon Peter Pan lost track of time and didn't return for years...
“Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter. This ought not to be written in ink but with a golden splash”.
Of all Wendy's adventures being a parent was the most glorious. In your journal does it not seem fitting to write about the birth of your children in gold rather than ink?
At the same time, notwithstanding the Savior’s injunction to be like our Heavenly Father, we are commanded to be as little children. There is a tension between the two, such that it may take some stretching to cover both ideals. To be selfless, and hard working like parents and humble and joyful like a child. It is my experience that this life will certainly stretch us.
Lucy loved the story of Peter Pan. Some day I will be able to ask her all about what she found so entertaining in this beloved story [and why she liked Captain Hook so much].
The video below is Lucy watching the Cathy Rigby Broadway production. The part she gets real excited about is just when Captain Hook walks on stage.