'Till Mourning

For my Mom

The best friend a girl could ask for.

That first year, you bid Wendy an almost absent farewell. You watch them fly into the clouds with a cheerful wave; it isn't until Wendy returns, Neverland clinging to her hair and cheeks, that you realize how dangerous is Peter Pan.

Over the next sixty days, the boys begin to forget. Unthinkingly, John shuts the window during a rainstorm. You take up post in your chair, waiting, waiting.

During the winter, you press Wendy into tighter dresses, higher heels, and a bigger room. Send her to an advanced school where she learns sewing, cooking, and literature. You pray: maybe if she's too grown, he won't be able to steal your daughter away.

But come spring, he appears at Wendy's new window, barely concerned with the move. Wendy kisses your cheek and waves good-bye, and you watch as all her carefully applied layers of maturity fall away. Standing before you now is not the gentle young woman you have raised; in her place is a gay, innocent, heartless girl with cheeks rosy not from rouge but rather from adventure.

She is gone for two months. When he returns her to you, she is not your Wendy anymore—she has to relearn all of the etiquette that you so painstakingly taught. But you simply redouble your efforts, whispering to yourself: one more year, one more year. Perhaps this time.

But April spins into place and he peers nonplussed at the window that you have shut. "Wendy!" He calls. She looks up and casts her sewing aside, flinging loose the shutters and placing a thimble into his palm. He grins, picking an acorn off of his . . . strap. You do not understand this ritual. "Mother, darling," Wendy scolds then, turning to you. "You mustn't be so forgetful about leaving the window shut."

Again she leaves you behind. John and Michael stand in the doorway, and when you turn around you see disappointment in their eyes. Yes, you want to tell them, I know. But soon she will be home.

And soon, she is. Dressed in a frock of leaves and twigs that throws propriety completely out the window; she is full of new stories and adventures for the boys. You hover outside of the nursery and hear her say: "The house you built me is still there, of course…although we've expanded it a bit. I'm much more comfortable. It feels just like home!"

Already you are losing her. You know this.

But Wendy is fourteen. Almost too old to fly away, almost too old to leave all her responsibilities behind. You don't notice that she's stayed young in features; still short, still thin, still wide-eyed and barely possessed of a woman's chin.

She has long since lost her hidden kiss. You don't bother to pretend that you don't know who has it.

This year he comes in March—a month early. Wendy does not ask your permission; instead she simply sets aside her school work and pulls her hair out of her face. She thinks you do not see, for you are hidden by a half-closed door. "I didn't expect you until April," she tells him, but she is smiling.

"I couldn't wait. I don't want you to miss the Dance of the Fairies again this year."

And then they are spinning in the air and you struggle to breathe. This dance is comfortable between them; Wendy's smile is warm and worn-in. And Peter has lost all shyness; he grasps her firmly, with a man's hold, and they spin and spin and spin.

You realize, brokenly, that you will not see her again. She will leave you for the last time now, and when June drips over Earth and over Neverland she will tell Peter, "This is my home," and in time she will forget all about you.

It is your motherly duty, you know, to tear Wendy from his grip and ground her. To shut the window, to bar it, to find a nice English gentleman and marry her to him so that she must stay, so that she can have children and finally, finally understand.

But perhaps, says that tiny little voice that maybe still believes in fairies, it is you that do not understand, you in this tidy house with a tidy husband and a drawer full of dreams.

Wendy has slipped into heaven, has found the life that perhaps she was always meant to lead. She was not meant for this life of sacrifice that you accepted so readily—she was meant for swords, for castles, and perhaps most especially, for a little man who is more grown up than he would like to admit.

She look so beautiful, in the air, so delicate and so strong.

And it is this voice, this thought, that prompts you to open the door, to kiss her cheek, to whisper, "I shall always love you, Wendy," and force a smile as they ascend—second star to the right, you remember, and straight on 'till morning.

You shut the window behind them.