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Dreaming of Neverland

I bound up onto the boughs of the tree effortlessly, the limbs barely
swaying under my weight. I glory the in feeling of being so high, heights
never held fear for me.

“Papa!”

I pause with one foot on the next branch and turn to look down at my 8-year
old daughter. Her brows are furrowed in concentration, trying to haul
herself up to follow me. Her cheeks get steadily redder from pushing until
her breath is released in a sudden huff and she looks up in resignation.

“Help?” she asks. I smile and climb down to where she is, easily lifting
her up into the tree.

“My dear, dear, Stella, you’re not strong enough yet! But don’t worry,” I
say seeing the rebellious look forming on her face, “you will be one day.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that you are so adventuresome, I wonder
where you got that from huh?” Stella laughs and places her finger on the
tip of my nose.

“Why, you of course, Papa.” I help pull her up into the higher branches,
closer to the stars she loves to watch so much, the ones she was named for.
She doesn’t protest when I tell her this is far enough, and I pull her
close, holding her tiny body in my arms. The sun has long set, and now
that we’re comfortable and secure up in the tree, we turn off the
flashlights we brought with us and wait for our eyes to adjust to the
darkness. Gradually, points of light come into focus far above us.

“Papa? What’s that constellation there?” Stella points out a pattern of
stars to my right.

“That’s Hercules, one of the greatest heroes in Greek mythology. Hercules
is actually his Roman name, in Greek mythology he’s known as Heracles,” I
tell her. Stella’s face scrunches as she tries to process the information.
She turns her face into my jacket and snuggles closer against the cold.

“Papa?” she mumbles sleepily.

“Yes my little star?” I answer.

“I think I saw a boy up in the sky…” Stella trails off, struggling
through her drowsiness, “I think it was Peter Pan. Do you think he’s up
there?”

“Maybe darling. You know, when I was your age, I once saw Peter Pan,” I
tell her.

“Really?” Stella asks.

“Yes, I was a child once too. And though I’ve grown older, at heart I am a
child still. He asked me to stay in Neverland with him,” I say.

“How come you didn’t go with him?” she asks as though going to Neverland
would obviously be her choice.

“I didn’t because I was smitten with a certain pretty young girl across the
street named Lily,” I laugh.

“That’s Mama…” Stella murmured, “Could you tell me that story about Peter
Pan again?”

“But you’ve heard it a thousand times!” I exclaim, but I relent, “Oh all
right…” She curls up in anticipation of the story.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Wendy and her two younger
brothers John and Michael. Now one night, John and Michael were acting out
a story that Wendy was telling them. But their father thought that Wendy
was too old to be playing at such childish things and told her it was time
for her to grow up. Saddened that her childhood was coming to an end,
Wendy went to bed with a heavy heart. But later that night, after their
parents had left for a party, Peter Pan came flying to their window looking
for his shadow…”

I glance down and realize that Stella has fallen asleep. The stars
overhead are beautiful, I wish I could stay out just a little longer to
watch them. Besides, I can let her sleep a little while longer. Her mouth
is open in a little o and little ringlets of hair cover her forehead. I
brush them back and lean down to kiss her on the head.

“Don’t ever grow up Stella,” I whisper, hoping that she is dreaming of
Neverland, where one can be a child forever.



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