My children run in circles around me. Around each other. Joining so many other children. Shouting. Laughing. Varying facial expressions. Of delight. Surprise. Bliss. Children with children. A beautiful, magical thing. Acting as if steadfast friends, family.
Misunderstandings. Disagreements. Pacts. High fives. Quickly resolved. More giggles and shouts. Forming rules of some made-up game. Memories of my own. Nonspecific. Just a feeling. Watching them. Knowing they are feeling what I once did. That marvelous time between young childhood and teenage years. More permissive than before. Less stressful and hormonal than after. The perfect years of childhood. The freedom of spending all day outside. Best friends. Groups. Believing things will never end.
My thoughts turn slightly to envy. Reason prevails. Intense joy for them. All kids. Not just mine. All within my view. Vast euphoria spilling from every pore of their sweaty bodies. Two children careen into each other. One is mine. I force myself to remain seated. I have no place in Neverland. We parents must stay on the sidelines. Merely permitted to observe. It’s an unusual sensation. So close and so far from the Lost Boys. Delighted for them. A tinge of sorrow, so brief, I am unsure of what I felt.
I know we must leave soon. Some boring adult task I must complete. I wish I could let them play on. In fact, I know they’ll beg for more time. And I know I’ll given them some. A short amount. They’ll gleefully run off to their new steadfast friends. I’ll warn them at two minutes, then one. Neither a problem. At the stroke of midnight, more pleading, despite years of knowing mom never acquiesces. Their submissions finally arrive.
They walk to the car, eyes downcast, shoulders slouched. Once in the car they look out their windows. Staring at the lost Lost Boys. Staring into space. Likely processing the last hour. Within minutes, their expressions explode into awe. They gush out stories. What they’d done. Physical feats. Imagined worlds. Heroes. Goodies. Baddies. The glances I steal in the mirror show their sweaty, glistening, rose-cheeked, faces. Beaming, glowing, laughing. This past hour, everything a child should have. Over, and Over. Again, and again.
Memories flood my mind. Me at ten, eleven, twelve. Best friends. Every day of summer. Riding bikes. Creating games. Certain in the knowledge we would be a ‘gang’ forever. Nothing would separate us. The hair-blowing, sweat-sticking, laughs, serious discussions about becoming bigger kids, cool pursuits. At thirteen and fourteen, the sorting into cool, nerdy, goth, jock. A realization that things would not always be the same. Trying to hang onto something that was never destined to be eternal. Turning to scorn for the immature past. Too grownup for Neverland. Reaching forward. Not back.
Coming back to present. Looking at my kids. Realizing I’m happy that they have, all they have now. Watching them sleep that night. Despite their showers, the fun still evident. Glancing at the heaving bodies, their perfect faces, their fluttering, dreaming eyelids. I breathe. Inhaling deeply. Attempting to connect stronger. Love exploding inside me. Making sure I draw in the present. Not take short sharp gasps about impending future. I love this. The knowledge that a magnificent day happened by chance. So easily. Breathtaking in simplicity. Sublime in its outcome.
They may not see those children again. See that park again. Play those games again. They will meet other kids. In other parks. Invent other games. I will not rue then, what is yet to come. Think of when all this will end. I will feel joy that mirrors their joy. I will watch and smile and laugh and cry. Not tears of sorrow. Tears of wonder. Of beauty. Of that which is the condition of childhood. My children, their peers, my childhood. A fleeting yet marvelous time. To be cherished. To be free.