ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

Book Two, Chapter 211: Peter Pan and Ernie

I go to bed. I read.

Now it’s one a.m. Time to turn out the light — but not quite. I need to reflect on the day.

I begin to tell Ernie about my day, starting with the morning.

It takes me a long time to wake up, Ernie. You always awakened first, turned on your lamp, and checked your watch. “Hello, little girl. Time to be stirring,” you’d say. Every morning now I check your watch, too, but I don’t stir for a long time. I try to recall my dreams. You remembered your dreams. Even hours later you would recall them. Amazing. So often you’d say: “Another frustration dream.” Now I know why you were feeling frustrated. So much tension that needed releasing. Words that needed saying. Wishes that weren’t coming true.

Just as it takes me a long time to awaken, it takes me a long time to fall asleep. When I first came to you, you were amazed at how quickly I fell asleep. You’d be talking to me, and oops, I’d be asleep. Sleep comes so easily to the young.

Perhaps sleep will come now. I turn off the light, but fifteen minutes later I turn it back on. Sleep is not coming.

I pick up Peter Pan, one of the books lying on the bed next to me, and turn to its last chapter: When Wendy Grew Up. I’ve read all the other chapters but this one. I haven’t wanted to come to the end of Peter Pan.

Peter Pan — the Doodle Doo, Captain Hook calls him . . . and so strange . . . or not so strange, given the way your mind worked — that one of the first nicknames you gave me was Fuzzy-Wuzzy waddle doodle de-do. Did you know about Peter Pan? Did something of Peter Pan cling to your magpie mind all those years?

Wendy’s promised to fly to Neverland with Peter every year to help him spring-clean, but Peter has no sense of time and an extremely short memory, so when he finally returns to the Darling nursery Wendy’s a grown woman with a daughter of her own.

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up.”

“You promised not to.”

“I couldn’t help it. I am a married woman, Peter.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, and the little girl in the bed is my baby.”

“No, she’s not.”

Peter’s first thought is to put a dagger to Wendy’s daughter. Instead he falls to the floor and cries. Wendy doesn’t know how to comfort him so she leaves the nursery, to think.

Peter’s crying awakens Wendy’s baby daughter. She sits up in her bed. She sees Peter. “Boy, why are you crying?” And, of course, he sprinkles her with fairy dust, and Jane flies away with him.

Yes, Ernie, you were my Peter Pan. You sprinkled me with fairy dust, and I flew away with you to Mexico, to England and France, to race tracks, to Taylor Farm with Bryan and Arabella, to the Kingdom of Wee with Crinklestitch, to the mountain town of Neon with Canyon and Rock.

Peter Pan said: “Death is the greatest adventure.” This is where Peter Pan and you parted ways. Death, for you, was The Enemy. This is why you became a fighter, fighting off Death, fighting Death even with your last breaths.

I know that under all your fight was fear — untalked-of fear, deep-down fear, long repressed fear — that kept you hidden from me.

The feeling of fear is basic to all of us. It’s what we do when we’re scared that makes all the difference.

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Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 2-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.