Second star to the right!

I am somewhat of a trickster when it comes to learning. I somehow manage to cling to the threads of my oddball childhood by passing them off as a part of higher education. Yesterday in COHI 123: Children & Media, we watched Sesame Street. A few weeks ago, we watched Disney’s Peter Pan, which despite its slight problems of racism, sexism, other-isms, will always be a classic in my book.

Before my stepfather went on a vindictive raid of my childhood memories and decided to sell nearly everything that has shaped who I am today, I had in my possession a massive collection of Disney movies. My sister and I would play and replay those VHS tapes until we had the dialogue memorized or until the cassette just broke from overuse. We popped them out of their sturdy plastic cases and listened patiently to the hum of the VCR as we waited for our movie of choice to rewind. And Peter Pan was always high up on the list.

Years later, I began to read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a twinge of skepticism skipping around inside my head. Would it do the movie justice? Would it ruin the idea of Neverland I had imagined for myself, so many years before? W0uld I even like it? And I was older then, so I thought maybe I wouldn’t. But I swear, I loved it from its very first lines.

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One d ay 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.

I’m reading it again now and I wonder if Peter Pan is even really a book for children. The character and the story and the world may be, but the book itself strikes me as something made about children. Or maybe something written for people to remember who they were when they were children. That’s what it is for me anyway. There is so much thought condensed into this one book that I couldn’t even imagine being a child and really understanding any of it.

All I know is that I liked it, and I guess when you’re a kid, that’s the only part that actually matters. When I was younger, I would dream of Neverland. I wanted it to be real so badly that my subconscious tried to convince me that it was.

 

Behold the grandeur of my fortress!

 

My play times were buried in escapism, complex routes to other worlds and the means of living out all the facets of my bizarre imagination. The most vivid memories I have of my childhood were moments I spent alone. And this would typically be a cue to barrage me with sympathetic condolences, but that isn’t necessary in my case because I adored that solitude. I don’t think I even recognized it as being by myself because I was so blissfully unaware and entirely engaged in whatever or wherever I was that particular day.

This may sound weird or crazy. Or maybe it sheds a little light on my presently strange character, but I can honestly say that these parts of my childhood were really wonderful. I would never, never give them back. Not for more play-dates with my friends or more popularity at my school or more “normal” ways of being a child. I’m not trying to be idealistic or naive about my childhood because I know it wasn’t perfect, but these memories are the ones I will never ever regret. These were the ones that made me.

I wish I could describe it better. There are such clear memories of my childhood, and in most of them, I’m perfectly content just letting all these absurd roles and crazy stories and elaborate worlds mix together in my head. It was a good time.

Watching Peter Pan makes me miss being a kid.

Sometimes I think I was so much more interesting then. Now I’m just this cranky old pseudo-adult who significantly lacks imagination and takes everything all to seriously. I know we all have to grow up and blah blah blah (I mean, that was basically the whole point of the story, wasn’t it?), but I wish there was a way to preserve my childhood without reducing it to faded memories. In some ways, I wish I could be part of the person I was when I was younger. I was active and energetic, adventurous and bold, spontaneous and funny. And things were simple and I was smart– for my age, at least. It seems like such a sacrifice to give up all the wild illusions and daring ambitions I had as a child.

 

Oh, young Booki.

 

I guess it’s like Peter Pan. It’s certainly not a happy ending, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely sad either. It just is what it is. That seems to always be the answer for things like this. I kind of hate it.

I don’t know if I feel this way because I’m graduating or because I’m in this class. I realize that I am no longer a child and haven’t been for quite a while, but there’s something about this year that makes the whole growing up process feel uncomfortably definitive. There is no going back, no flitting in between excuses of being young and knowing better. It’s like this is the point of no return. This is it. The whole ceremonious shebang and it’s permanent. The air is annoyingly stagnant and heavy with the approach.

Tax forms and financial transactions. Career decisions and inevitable debt. Professionals and protocol and appropriate attire. Medical appointments and expiring insurance policies. Monthly rent payments and daily expenses. Organizing and categorizing and structuring. Information about politics and medicine and international issues and justice and religion and current affairs and science and news and literature. Responsibilities and aging and identity crises.

I know I’m not a kid, but I’m sure not ready to be an adult.

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About Booki
"Somewhere man must know that self-perception is the most frightening of all human observations. He must know that when a man faces himself, he is looking into an abyss."

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