We took Abe last night to see a children's production of the Broadway version of Peter Pan. Our neighbor's 18-year-old son was playing Captain Hook. We weren't sure how Abe would do for a long show like this but the experience has to rank up there in our top five best experiences as parents thus far.
Our neighbor who played Captain Hook, post-show sans costume.
Ever since Abe was pretty small (under age two even), he would sit quietly, hands clasped on his lap, to hear a story. The story could be a book, play, or puppet show. His imagination simply took him there to that place where the story was happening. You can see the concentration in his face. This happened last night during Peter Pan, from the moment the curtain rose. Abe sat transfixed for two hours. He would ask us questions along the way about what was going on but he rarely took his eyes off the action on stage.
During the curtain call at the end, the girl playing Peter took her applause by flying over the crowd in her harness, sprinkling fairy dust over everyone. She was directly above us, so Abe got a head-full of glitter. All during the play, Ted and I kept looking at Abe then over at each other, astounded at the quality and heart of the show. Then we'd look down at Abe, his eyes lit up, mouth slightly open, bewitched by theater. We'd look again at each other, shake our heads, get misty-eyed. I was choking back tears through the whole thing.
This is why people want to be parents. We want to experience our childhoods again through our sons and daughters. We want the joy of watching them discover stories and truths that we discovered at their age. We want to watch them come to love things that we love too. Fantasy, fairies, boys who can fly, pirates and Indians, dance, music, light, staying up too late, crocodiles who go 'tick tock', happy thoughts, adventure, sacrifice, transcendence, friendship, magic.
I had the hardest time fighting back the tears when the audience clapped to bring Tinkerbell back to life after she drank the poison meant for Peter. Peter plead with us to believe, to clap, to let our imaginations breathe life. It did. Abe may have clapped the hardest.
After the show, the cast came out to mingle with the audience. Abe very much wanted to meet Wendy. He wanted to meet everyone. He told them all "good job," and then asked them nonstop questions. Since turning three, Abe has entered a shy period around new people. He will often tuck his head into our legs, not wanting to talk. But not last night. We were amazed at how chatty he was with these young actors. He wanted to track all of them down and talk to them. When he wasn't with an actor, he was telling us and our neighbors about his favorite parts of the show, tiny details that even we had maybe overlooked or forgotten about, like the harness that at one point was hanging down too low: as Abe kept saying, "That rope escaped."
Though it was very late, he still talked nonstop the entire way home. If Ted and I started talking to each other, he'd say, "Momanddad, please stop talking. Now, Dad? Tell me something else about Wendy." After the very late night last night, he slept until almost 11 and woke up telling me that he dreamed about Peter Pan. I'm glad. I hope he has many dreams about Never Never Land. I had no idea going into parenthood how fun it would be to relive my own childhood. This may be the biggest surprise to me about being a mom: the aching swell in my chest every time I see Abe find joy in something that I also loved as a child. There is nothing else like it.
Whole worlds are opening up for our son, and we get to watch it. My son's face is the best theater I've ever seen.