Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"I Have a Place Where Dreams Are Born . . ."

Some days, I have flashbacks.
Like suddenly I’m five-years-old, jumping on the bed, trying to fly away to Neverland.

I’m in my Oma and Papa’s apartment, which always smells like cigarette ashes, and I’m watching a movie in their bedroom with my little brother while the adults talk in the sitting room. 
Papa is in his recliner in the next room. He never seems to move out of that chair, and he’s always wearing black socks that seem horribly out of place with his pale blue pajamas.  When he talks it’s a guttural mumbling.
He’ll only live five more years, but we don’t know that yet.  I won’t cry at his funeral because all I can see is a recliner, blue pajamas, and black socks, a man I am too shy to hug when we said goodbye because I don’t really know him. The only time we really spend together (that I remember) is when he, my mom, Oma, Matthew and I watch a National Geographic special on leeches years later.  Random, yes, (and, I mean, really who wants to write, film, and produce a special on LEECHES? Gross). . . but I remember perching on the edge of the couch with Papa nearby in his recliner, saying little, those black socks an eyesore.  Don't think I don't understand the tragedy of that: that my grandfather's memory is reduced to socks.  Sometimes, I think about that, and I get twisted inside, but, most times, I feel very little.
In my childhood, I am closer to my Oma, who covers us in hugs and kisses and always has the best movies and lets us drink Coke straight out of the can—no cups, only the can.  Still, whenever I drink Coke out of the can, I’m back at my Oma’s.  Her memory tastes like soda pop.
My brother Matthew (he’s not “Matt” until he’s in high school) and I are watching Mary Martin’s Peter Pan.  It is one of our favorites, but we call it "Murphy Martin" because that's what Matthew thinks its title is.  Matthew used to steal my ballet shoes because they looked like the Lost Boys’ shoes, and we could spend hours acting out the story of Peter Pan, singing all of the songs and bravely fighting off the vicious pirates of our imagination.
 And, to my child’s mind, the filmed stage play looked so real. The first time Peter Pan flew into Wendy’s bedroom window, I was in awe.

Dude, he/she FLEW. Actually soared in, lightly as a leaf, and lands in the nursery as if a soap bubble--no effort, pure joy.
I mean, there it was, all of my dreams, RIGHT THERE.
People could fly.
They really, really could!
And if they could fly, I could fly! All I needed were happy thoughts . . .
So I jump on that floral-patterned bed, higher and higher, harder and harder, thinking the doggone happiest thoughts I can (mermaids and Barbies and tree forts and frogs and peanut butter!), until my mother opens the door.  
“Sarah! Matthew! What are you doing? STOP JUMPING ON THE BED.”
“But we’re trying to fly to Never Neverland!”
I give another good bounce, but stop, because Mom is giving me “the look” (you know the one).
“Honey, you can’t fly to Neverland.  People can’t fly."
My mother, a sweet and blessed woman, was always the realist.  And by “realist” I don’t mean a pessimist—I mean a staunch realist—if it can’t happen in real life, why bother with it?  This moment, this miniscule event, foreshadowed our biggest future difference – she liked movies and books within the realm of possibility . . . I like mutants, fairytales, and all things imaginary. I’m proud to say that, twenty years later, my mother has embraced things like Tolkien, and I have learned the value in realistic fiction.  But that’s not for many years.
This day, she looks at me with tender pity in her eyes, “Sarah, people can’t fly.”
I was indignant. Didn’t she see them? Was she BLIND? Adults are notoriously unable to see the simpliest things. This must be one of those moments. Surely, I can show her the error of her ways . . .
“Yes, they can! Look! They’re flying! All I need are happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!” and I bounce again with fervor.
“No, Sarah, sweetie, they’re not flying. Look, you can see the strings attached to their backs.”
“No, no, they’re flying!”
“Look? See the strings? They’re lifting the actors off the stage so they look like they’re flying.”
I stop bouncing, slip down from the bed, and walk to the television until my nose is nearly pressed against the screen.
I look.
And I see.
I see those thin, wavering lines that had once been invisible to me. Now, they are screaming at me, swelling through the screen.
“Yes, sweetheart.”
I am caught somewhere between scientific curiosity and denial.  Surely, Peter Pan could really fly. Surely, surely . . . but, no there are the strings. What did it feel like? To be hoisted by strings? Did it feel like flying?  I want to fly, I do, so very badly.  I’m not afraid of heights, yet, and I’m dreaming of flying away to Neverland, of living in tree houses and frolicking with mermaids, of pixies and pirates and crocodiles.  Still, there are the strings . . . and suddenly Wendy’s nursery is a stage, a little box in grey paint, and the dancing trees have little feet poking out from under their trunks, shuffling about.
And all the world’s a stage.
So I stop jumping on the bed, and I settle down, peering intensely at the screen, looking for the strings. It became a game, really—figure out how they made magic in movies, fall out of the story and dive into the technique.

And something in me stopped looking for Never, Neverland . . . mostly . . . not completely. Something still wished for it. Even now, I still want Neverland to exist, somewhere . . . and, maybe it does . . . 

Sometimes, I'm just too busy looking for the strings to find it . . .


  1. I enjoyed reading this post and delving into you as a kid. I always wanted to live in the Hundred-acre Wood....still do. That is what my heaven looks like :)

  2. Sarah, I love this so incredibly much! Please write more blogs like this. I was so captivated and wanting to read more the entire time. Everything. I just......I just love it!

  3. I KNOW! Those nasty strings crushed my childhood bliss as well. I'm sure many fairies died on that tragic day.

  4. wow, you definitely know how to covey a magical moment- I very much enjoyed reading this! :)

    xo, samantha

  5. Wow. I loved reading this. You certainly have a knack for capturing moments. Definitely adding you to my read list!

  6. Loved this too! You need to write for a living! :-) Glad you can do it here though! Miss Christie


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