But I do. I see a tuft of wild hair, I see the smile sparkling like a golden butterfly from behind stalks of bunchgrass. Little boy is at it again. Peter Pan indeed.
We’ve read the books, abridged and unabridged, yet again, and we will do it one more time, and two, and three times more until little boy will say ‘now let’s read about Ivanhoe.’
We take Peter Pan from books to the hills where boys get lost among dry grasses and hide behind scraggly ponderosa pines that are still standing… Playing. There is a mystery to it all. Grass speaks to boys in wild ways. ‘Do it!’ it says to them… Run to catch the sun! Can you balance on the see-saw stump? Do it!…
To us it says the same but we’re grownups now and the sounds come out distorted. We say ‘Stop! Go slow, don’t run so fast…’. Boys snicker, throw silly looks over their shoulders as they do it anyway…
Be it so… Their feet and bodies listen to the tall grass only. As they should. The mystery itself.
It is midday Sunday and the sun is stingy with its warmth but we’re clad in wool sweaters and touques. We’re on the hiking trail we often take in the morning. It is no longer just a path snaking on the side of the hill. It is where we discover woodpeckers and blue jays and snow berries and yellow mushroom caps and talk about what makes smoke go up and how math is everywhere on any given morning before we head inside to learn more.
A trail that has become ‘the trail’ and then it has become ‘our trail’. We pin, as if with sticky notes, memories of us, of the mornings that see us hike here and talk about the things the boys learn in our school at home.
Soon we will know every turn and bush and stump.
Little boy pleas with his brother to be pirate Cecco. Say yes? He does. Taunting as the big brother words and gestures can be towards little boy at times, there’s a lot of love pouring out when he’s eagerly agreeing to play. He hops, runs, jumps and rolls as any pirate worth his salt would. Delight lives on both sides.
There’s barely any space around us that’s left unfilled with laughter – sounds so round you’d think it’s raining plump giggling droplets. I like it when that happens. Sun showers of sorts. Like silly weather, boys’ moods go from sunshine to snow to sun again in a merry-go-round grownups so inelegantly and harshly judge at times.
Boys can turn playful tumbles into war-like matches. The world of boys is a magic one. Sweet smiles and twinkling eyes one second, darts and fists flying wild the next. Like now. We stop and listen.
Peace again. ‘It’s OK, mom, we’re going to play some more.’
Max and I walk slowly behind them, gazing at shreds of clouds scattered over cinnamon hills. Quiet meets quiet, eyes meet, and the air feels warmer.
There are giggles and rustling noises coming from behind Saskatoon berry bushes. Peter Pan’s wooden knife plunges next to Cecco’s feet and the next seconds become a tumble of two bodies down a sandy slope. Laughter so loud it makes dogs bark. Just like in the book with Nana the dog on the night of the great adventure.
Too much sand fills Pan’s boots so they come off. Little boy runs barefoot with big brother in hot pursuit. What? No, put them on, it’s cold.
‘I’ll keep the socks on!’ Pitter patter, feet get away from being questioned. Play is what they want to do.
More tumbles, more screams. I don’t know why Max and I are laughing but how else can this become a memory? An imprint of this and now? Faces get dirty and hair turns wispy after the sand tumbles and wild lost boys they are, lost from anything but playing. Lost and found, up and down, a world of their own which we have the privilege to see.
Exhaustion comes in like a nagging aunt. They lean against us as we walk home. You walk on your own, pirate, let those legs carry you home. Peter can fly…
‘Can I sew leaves onto my shirt like Peter Pan’s?’
Perhaps use fabric? He did. The dining table is now a sea of green with leaf-shaped bits of fabric peeking from just about everywhere. This is learning. They both learn by touching and doing and daring. They learn by living.
Little boy cuts and prepares, he will sew them on one by one. He’ll wear the shirt and pants for a day, or two or three, bury them under new ideas and dig them out on a sunny morning when the sunshine will remind him of Peter Pan.
Let’s read some Peter Pan he’ll say, and I will say yes, and we’ll read once, twice, three times… and time will stay still. Lost boys will resurface, pirates too, and the tall grass will call to them again. Whispers and songs they’ll still hear for many moons to come, for childhood will still be here, sewn to their smiles and mischief still stuck to their hair like glittering sand and dandelion seeds are today.
We’ll follow them boys as they’ll run and tumble, we’ll be quiet and hopeful that the whispers of the tall grass will be loud enough for us to hear too…
We’ll follow them to the edge of reason and back, again and again, we’ll walk a few steps behind, and when all silliness is done for the day we’ll all breathe in the sunset and keep that breath in long enough to remember.
Everything. The steps to here. The leap from here…