(Flying, flying, flying)
Look at me way up high,
Suddenly here am I
High up, and as light as I can be.
I must be a sight lovely to see.
- from the musical Peter Pan
Saturday started with the same frenzied sequence of events as it has since winter began. In separate locations my husband and I rammed small pairs of feet into the footwear of the moment; skates for my son, ballet slippers for my daughter. I noticed, as she rushed off to class, that I still hadn’t trimmed the laces on her shoes. Next week, I vowed as I returned to the car to muse over the remains of the day. It was then, while idling in front of the studio, I stumbled upon a status update that caused me to spend the next hour wandering around the adjacent mall in a daze. A childhood friend and gym mate had died in a car crash.
I’ve thought a lot about her since Saturday. About the time I shaved the back of her head in my upstairs bathroom or the acrobatic duet we performed during the junior high fashion show. But I spent most of the time remembering the way we spent break time during gymnastics performing random acts of badness – running blindly through the equipment with our t-shirts over our heads, hoisting each other up to the nether regions of the gym’s stage, or crawling beneath it amongst the empty equipment carts and dust bunnies. All of these activities were performed with a mix of trepidation and delight: the fear of getting caught by our coach as we re-appeared from a hiding spot, combined with the incomparable spirit of adventure that seems to both magnify and peak in childhood.
It was only fitting then, that Peter Pan was selected as the theme for one of our annual gymnastics Christmas displays. I was cast as Peter and her as Michael – the Darling’s free-spirited youngest child. To solve the issue of rigging, trampolines were substituted to simulate flying. The dramatic opening scene where the Darling children are told by Peter to think lovely thoughts in order to fly was not a stretch for her to perform. She possessed a rare sense of optimism and joy. But while Peter refused to grow up, we did. We became teenagers, adults, mothers, but what remained in her was a sense of playfulness and hope. A disposition that implied life could be weathered through tenacity, hard work and lovely thoughts.
I lost touch with Leslie in recent years and when I got home for my daughter’s dance class on Saturday, I spent a long time just looking at the photos of her and her two young boys. After the release of her obituary today and the subsequent outpouring of condolences and expressions of grief popping up on social networks, I remember her again. Now, graced with wings she has learned to fly and I have a feeling she’s up there, second star to the right. A tragic, yet shining reminder to hug our babes and to think lovely thoughts: summer, sunshine, Leslie.