Second Star to the Right

Last night my son woke up around 11 p.m..  He was talking loudly and stumbling a bit, and we raced up the stairs to see what was the matter.  Fever? Stomach bug?  Instead we found him in the bathroom, struggling to get his pajama bottoms off in time.  He wasn’t quite awake, and after he’d finished and we were helping him wash his hands, he started, for no apparent reason, to laugh.  And laugh and laugh and laugh.  It was so infectious, so glee-filled, that when my husband and I looked at each other, we couldn’t help it — we started to laugh too.  In the bathroom at 11 p.m. I was as happy, for no reason that I could tell, as I have been in days.

As a toddler, my son had the kind of laugh that made people feel good.  One neighbor would tickle him on a regular basis just to hear it.  My daughter, though always more reserved, could get strangers to belly laugh along with her.  After I tucked him back into bed, I thought about the last time I heard either of them laugh like that.  It’s been months, if not longer.  Sure, they smile on a regular basis, they chuckle and cackle and giggle, but the kind of laugh that makes your cheeks hurt, that puts a cramp in your stomach, that you remember for days?  Not so much.

Lately, my family is Peter Pan obsessed.  We’re listening to Peter and the Starcatchers in the car (It’s fabulous and read by the inimitable Jim Dale), we watch this version of Peter Pan at least once a month (if you haven’t seen it, it is heartbreaking and beautiful and many of the catch phrases have worked their way into our daily life, so if my children tell you I am Old! Alone! and Done For! it’s not quite as terrible as you may think), and I’ve recently finished reading a biography of J.M. Barrie.

I never cared much for the original Peter Pan — I read it as a child, and then as a young adult, and both times found it somewhat cloying, but recently one line has returned to me: “When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”

It’s overly sentimental, but I  get what Barrie was saying now.  There’s something so magical, so awe-inspiring, about that early laughter.  It comes so freely at first that even as we smile in response,  we fail to see there may come a time when we won’t hear it every day.  It gets pushed down, buried under the 7:30 a.m. alarm, the rush and hustle out the door, the worry over homework, over standardized tests and who is friends with whom and where to sit at lunch and what the coach thinks.

If there’s a reason not to grow up, it would be to preserve that laugh, that sense of joy that comes from just being alive and in the moment.  I can’t give that feeling to my family on a CD or DVD, no matter how good it is. But I can try to find and preserve those moments whenever they come, even if it’s at 11 p.m. at night.

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Liz Michalski


  1. sam on March 4, 2011 at 12:51 am

    I love this post, Liz. Just the other day, the hubby scrambled to get the video cam just so we could record the kiddos telling silly stories to each other while giggling with gusto. If only I could stop time and keep their laughter as easy as it is now. Sigh.

    • liz on March 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      It’s great that you have that recorded, Sam. I’ve taped my kids telling jokes and just talking with the record function of my phone, and even just a year later it’s amazing how young they sound. I miss those days…

  2. Lynn on March 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Your attempts at making me cry, Liz, are working, as I find myself wondering every day where my little babies are. But don’t worry- the belly laughs and babies never go away- they are just replaced by these bigger little people and triggered by things like entering puberty, and having 24-hour text message girlfriends, and getting caught googling porn (they are getting older, not smarter), and being incapable of stringing 3 sentences together that don’t have a bathroom reference in them….How can you not belly laugh with them?! It keeps us all from taking stuff too seriously! 🙂

    • liz on March 4, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      I know, but I’m so not ready! : )

  3. The Never Fairy on March 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    What I don’t like about the Barry/Pearson novels is that they have a TON of mistakes as compared to Barrie’s original stories. And it’s not just the fact-checking kind. They changed the very personalities and traits ans well as the reason Peter Pan doesn’t grow up. It’s like they never even bothered to read Barrie! How can they be SO disrespectful?

    If you can’t get enough Pan, there are two books for you that are quite good.

    There’s a FAITHFUL continuation of the story, which is derived from Barrie’s notes for more… Click!

    Then there’s one that’s NOT for the kids. It’s a grand ‘What if?’ adventure that charts a brand new course for the story and characters… and though it veers, it remains anchored in the core essence and themes of Barrie. But again, it’s an adult read. Click!

    Hope you like them!
    [Oh – and there’s no “star” in that quote. Disney added it.]

    • liz on March 4, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      Thank you for the recommendations — I will definitely check them out!

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