The children are home from college this week to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and some needed time off from their studies. Our house, which is spacious while they are away at college, is one again crowded and noisy.
I love it.
Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I enjoy living in an “empty nest” during the school year. Our conversations are longer and better, the remote control is right where I left it, the chocolate milk lasts more than a day, things like that.
But there are times when I wish I could go back in time about fifteen years, just for a weekend. I’d love to hear three grade school students turning laps again through our house with their Barbie cars; or drive to their three basketball games at three different gyms in one day, stopping afterwards for Happy Meals with Beanie Babies; or look into their rooms at 9 p.m. to see them sleeping soundly in their little beds.
This reminds me of the song Trace Adkins sings on country radio called “You’re Gonna Miss This,” written by Ashley Gorley and Lee Miller. In the song, a mother tells an anxious teen the same words a plumber tells a stressed mother of two:
You’re gonna miss this, you’re gonna want this back,
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast.
These are the good times, so take a good look around.
You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.
I studied American history in college, but it didn’t prepare me for the deep sense of history I feel whenever I look at my children’s faces. Blink, she’s eight, sitting on Santa’s knee. Blink, he’s six, playing a keyboard and a recorder at the same time. Blink, he’s five, rolling his eyes like a master comedian.
Those childhood days were very busy and hard, but their memories have turned much sweeter in time. When I stop and think for a moment, the joy of those memories seeps into the present and makes today a little brighter.
This concept, however, is unknown to the main character in Hook, a very special family film we watched often on video tape during those childhood years.
In Hook, Peter Banning (Robin Williams) is a successful corporate lawyer who focuses entirely on his work. Orchestrating a myriad of details, he instructs his army of office workers to carry out various tasks, even videotaping his son’s ballgame in case he can’t get there in time.
Peter thinks he’s able to do it all – have a successful career, earn the respect of his associates, and provide a good home for his family. Along the way, however, he forgets the one element that’s essential for a happy life: joy.
Peter used to live in joy every day as the legendary Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up. Together with the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell in Neverland, they swam with the mermaids, danced with the Indians, and fought Captain Hook and the pirates.
The day arrives, however, when Peter makes the decision to grow up and to have a family of his own. Unfortunately, he becomes a lost boy himself—consumed by his work and the next big financial deal.
It’s only through the influence of his wife that they board a plane to England for the dedication of a new wing at the orphanage named after Moira’s grandmother: Wendy Moira Angela Darling.
When Peter’s children mysteriously disappear, Granny Wendy (Maggie Smith) tries to remind Peter of his past. She implores him to go back to Neverland and save his children from Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). He questions her sanity.
But with the help of pixie dust from Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts), Peter goes back to Neverland and tries to make sense of his new surroundings. Confused and ineffective, it’s only after a rebuttal from his son that he finds a new determination to win back his children. He then stumbles upon the secret hiding place where he lived as Peter Pan.
Through his recollections with Tinker Bell, Peter remembers his life as Peter Pan, but also why he wanted to grow up: he wanted to be a father. This memory, this “happy thought,” gives him the power to fly, to organize the Lost Boys and battle Captain Hook and his men.
When Peter returns from Neverland, he’s a changed man, reveling in the past but focused on the present. He lives with the joy of his children in his heart and decides not to take any day for granted. His life will continue to be a great adventure.
In this holiday season, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. But there’s a joy in this world we should embrace and give thanks.
I am so thankful for the warm and generous support I’ve received from the readers of this column and my Christmas book. I pray that God’s love will inspire your hearts to do wonderful things, as He has mine.
First published in the November 28, 2008 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2008 Christopher Fenoglio.