Peter Pan is one of my all-time favorite stories, for a lot of reasons. Peter was the original cocky, un-tame-able, fun-loving boy of my dreams, no doubt, but what I think I love most is that at its core, Peter Pan is an honest, beautiful, messed up kind of heart breaking love story that left a never-ending question lodged in my heart.
Why didn’t Wendy and Peter stay together?
Trying to answer leads to a flurry of other questions, all of which I’ve been trying to answer about every love story, including my own, I’ve come across since.
Were they meant to be together? Are two people ever really meant to be together? What does that even mean? Meant to be together. Pre-destined by God? Because that seems to go against free will, which is a pretty big deal in the God arena, so I struggle with that. A perfectly made mate, maybe? But the odds of finding that person and getting all the human stuff right, the timing, the personalities, the views on what kind of life you want together, seem like they’d be somewhere in the vicinity of slim to none.
Still, some seem to find their perfect-for-them mate, and one could argue they’re the happiest among us.
To over-complicate this ‘what is love’ question further, I look at humans as souls with bodies. Souls existing in the physical world, among all the physical and biological wonders and failures and limitations of earth and humanity. When you look at life this way things become infinitely more complicated. What if your soul does have a mate, a matching or complementing or intensifying piece of energy somewhere out in the great beyond. And maybe both souls are here on earth, not sure if they’ll ever cross paths. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they find each other at the end and swap stories. Or maybe just once, their eyes lock on a random afternoon across a crowd and there’s a flicker of recognition, a flare of a connection they both feel but don’t understand. And they’re both with someone else they love in a lot of ways, so it passes. But they look back at each other. Maybe twice. And maybe again before they leave, knowing they won’t see each other for a long time, but it will be okay. Maybe there’s a sort of relief that comes with seeing this person you don’t know but somehow recognize. It energizes and comforts you.
I like to believe these ‘cosmic loves’ exist in varying degrees between a lot of people. I like to believe you can really love someone, something about them, a lot of things about them, and that love is always valid and real. But in the realm of life here on Earth, in this physical world bound up by humanity and all its potential and flaws, those pieces of love get confused, jumbly.
Let’s face it, a lot of physical / human stuff gets in the way of good, healthy, meaningful relationships.
There’s no question Wendy and Peter were connected. It seems she loves him and he loves her, but neither quite understands this or knows what to do about it. Was it just bad timing? Or does Wendy know she wants a different life the never-ending play date of Neverland? And does Peter know a life with a beard and a business suit will do irreparable damage to his being? Do they know deep inside, in this world, they can’t be what the other wants?
If that’s the case, maybe in the end they were better off apart for now. Does that make a difference? Does it matter in the end? Is their love any less real or strong or meaningful if they don’t spend their human lives together? Is it any more real/strong/meaningful if they do?
Does committing to spend your life with someone mean you love them more than you love everyone and/or everything else? From just ten years in a healthy, happy marriage I can tell you that a love worked at grows and purifies over time and I don’t think the miracle of that process or the power of the connection between people who’ve lived in a long, (mostly) happy marriage can be discounted. Maybe through our experiences here we’re making and strengthening connections that resonate beyond our understanding of space and time.
Maybe Wendy and Peter inherently love each other so much, they don’t worry about it. It hurts a little, but he let’s her go be her and have the life she thinks she wants and she lets him go be him and have the life he thinks he wants, and they still love each other all the while just the same.
Does that make their story more romantic? Or Real? Do they risk losing their love by not nurturing it together every day? Or are they protecting it by not forcing it to be something it’s not?
Or maybe they were just kids having fun, which usually looks like love of some degree. Maybe if they truly loved each other, Peter would have stayed and grown a beard or Wendy would have flew back with him and left her mother alone in the window. Maybe Peter wouldn’t have forgotten to come back for her. Maybe she would have minded more that he didn’t.
For decades, these questions about love’s origins and boundaries have haunted me. HAUNTED ME. And it all started with that cocky Peter Pan and that beautiful, stubborn Wendy.
I constantly oscillate between favoring the romantic notions of story love and the day in / day out commitment at the foundation of most real-life loves I see. What about you? Are you swayed one way or another? Does it depend on the day? The story?
Image Credit: This is a pic I snapped of a page from one of our favorite adaptations of Peter Pan and Wendy. Original text by J.M. Barrie. Adapted by Jane Carruth. Illustrated by Anne Grahame Johnstone. Available for purchase here.