PETER PAN AT HSC

This is a short account (Pete and Tink lose interest if you’re not quick)
of Peter Pan visiting the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada in the year 1998.

Peter will appear in the guise of my son, Jarret,
who, at the time, was 5 years old, during a relentless March still deep
in snow, and uncertainty about Jarret’s brother Arlen, but one year old,
diagnosed with leukemia.

Which meant little to Jarret—he loved the hospital because in each ward there is a playroom,
which Jarret called, “the Toy Store”. There was every conceivable toy, book, video game waiting—and Jarret loved each one.
Each night Jarret and I would pack a meal to take to the hospital to eat with Mom and Arlen,
and as soon as we were done, Jarret would drag Arlen from his hospital room,
as happy as could be, as happy as a child should be, to go to “the Toy Store”.

There he would play with every child, any child, oblivious to the multi-branch forest
of tubing and IV pumps, moon faces marooned in wheel chairs and haze of medication —
he would get through to each, Peter Pan ready to lead the Lost Boys in imagination.
And they would find him,

join in his charmed circle that knew only lust for toys and refined sense of adventure.
He would play, each child invited, and urged to fly, because the Toy Room was so
splendid it could not contain them;
Peter flying ever upward, urging them onward, to forests, lakes, and lagoons,
adventures against pirate ships, singing with mermaids, faster, higher, to the Island
where only children are citizens and all are admitted, none denied (that love to play).

His triumphant “cock a doodle doo” was the natural finale to another night in “the Toy Room”
the children wild and unwilling to go to their rooms;
parents finally content their children are still normal;
volunteers truly worked and happy they were here this time;
nurses, though less affected by pixie dust than most, a little light footed;
and the corridor lights shine, wheelchairs stand empty and wait,
while elevators go up and down, taxis parked whether night or day;

listen to Peter’s war cry as it echoes through the corridors, past surgery,
past infectious diseases, past coronary, past oncology, and psychology,
past burns, and urology, it irresistibly crows “OOO o oo o OOO!!”
to call each child to dream harder, to save Fantasy Island from the
dark storms and shoals that surround it, to know that no pirate can defeat,

that nothing can withstand, a true heart at play.

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