Thursday, 23 April 2015

SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT...


Illustration by MICHAEL FOREMAN

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

So wrote author J. M. BARRIE in the opening paragraph
of PETER PAN.  And it's true;  I know because I had a similar
experience when I was three or four years old.  My mother had
been outlining my future to me one day, probably preparing me
for when I'd be starting primary school.  "And what happens then?"
I asked, curious about what lay before me.  There then followed a
description of the different stages of my life to which I could 'look
forward', interspersed at each pause with "And what happens
then?" from myself.  Eventually, having worked through my
life from primary school to adulthood, she rested from
her labours, thinking her duty done.

"And what happens then?" I again enquired, tenacious infant
that I was.  She thought for a moment before replying  "Then you
grow old."  The inevitable "And what happens then?" from me.
"Then you die," she said, simply.  I had no concept of death, so per-
sisted.  "And what happens then?"  I was like a broken record,
but probably more grating.  "Nothing happens then.  When
you're dead, you're dead," she said, matter of factly.

(I should perhaps here mention that my mother's response
was a surprising one, given her own beliefs.  She went to church
and sent me and my brother to Sunday school, and did, in fact,
subscribe to the concept of the afterlife, 'though probably more
from a superstitious point of view than from an informed one.  I
can only assume that she regarded such an idea beyond my
young powers of comprehension, and was speaking
merely from the physical perspective.)

This greatly disturbed me, and when I was put to bed that
evening, I couldn't sleep.  I eventually made my way downstairs,
repeating "I don't want to die, I don't want to die!" over and over
again.  It's no exaggeration to say that the notion of total oblivion
had traumatised me.  My parents did their best to console me, say-
ing that death was a long way off and that I shouldn't be concerned
with it.  I eventually calmed down, but could never quite escape the
dark shadow of the fate that loomed ahead of me.  I decided there
and then that if growing up meant growing old, and growing old
meant dying, then I would simply never grow up!  I'd be a child
forever.  I stated aloud my determination and was then put
back to bed, where sleep eventually claimed me.

Henceforth, whenever any friends of my parents would
ask me (as friends of parents inevitably will) what I was going
to be when I grew up, before I could even answer, my parents
would respond with "He's not going to grow up, he's going to be
just like Peter Pan!"  (This happened on more than one occasion.)
It was therefore surprising when I picked up J. M. Barrie's book in
my thirties to find a similar experience to my own recounted in its
opening pages.  How amazing is that?  A story about a boy with
whom I'd been compared from an early age, and the very first
paragraph resonates immediately.  Curiously, like WALT
DISNEY's version of the character ('though it's not in
the book), I've never been able to click my fingers.

It's rather apt, then, that in my teenage years, my nick-
name became 'Kid', which I've been called ever since.  (The
story behind that can be found here.)  Not everyone who knew
me was aware of the appellation 'though, only a particular group
of friends and acquaintances (and their families) who lived in my
neighbourhood.  When I started freelancing for IPC's 2000
A.D. in 1985, I used it in the credit boxes because it was
easier to fit in the allocated space.

"Two is the beginning of the end."  However, I refuse
to grow old.  I'm going to be a "boy eternal" (as SHAKE-
SPEARE put it) and try my best to retain what KENNETH
GRAHAME calls "the spirit of youth" within me.  In the end,
of course, it may not stave off expiration, but life is a hell
of a lot more fun along the way.  

3 comments:

John Pitt said...

You said that one day you would relate this "Peter Pan" story when I asked if that's why they call you "Kid". Eee, how long ago was that?
It's probably my favourite Disney film, my Mother took me to see it before we had a telly.
Did you know that I can't tell the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney?

DeadSpiderEye said...

I think I realized I was an adult when I was about 10 years old, about the time i started at the big school. There I learned that maturity isn't necessarily acquired through age, by witnessing the examples set by my teachers. It still astonishes me that people that infantile acquire such responsibility.

Kid said...

Bing sings and Walt Disney - that's the dif.

******

I think I realised I was an adult when I had to pay tax and N.I.

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