I know that Neverland is a real place. I have visited there often.
"Tag! You're it!"
"Who made up this stupid game?" I thought, as once again I was the first person tagged."
Being the shortest one in our neighborhood group of kids, except for the "babies" -- younger siblings ranging from toddlers to kindergarten age -- I also had the shortest legs and was invariably the first person tagged. This meant that I would chase the others around while they took turns resting and building up their strength. I was at a disadvantage in any game involving running, but tag was the worst. Whether it was Cartoon Tag in which you had to name a cartoon or cartoon character to avoid being made it if tag, or Cigarette tag in which you had to name a brand of cigarette to save yourself from being made it or just plain regular tag or any other variation on the game I was "it' more than my share.
Then one sunny day I decided Enough! I revolted.
"No!" I declared. "I'm not being 'it' anymore."
"You have to be 'it'. You were tagged."
"I'm always tagged."
"Then run faster."
"I'm always the first one chased so I'm the first one tagged and I can't run as fast as the rest of you. I'm not being 'it' anymore."
"That's cheating. You have to play by the rules."
There were nods of agreement. Playing by the rules was very important.
"The rules aren't fair to me. I'm not playing tag anymore."
One girl, thinking she was being smart and would catch me with nothing to say asked "What do you want to play? Hide and Seek? Red Rover?"
"No, none of those," I replied. Definitely not something that involved running.
"Then what?" asked someone else.
I looked around the yard and to answer I walked over to the swingset, stood on the teeter-totter and called out "Who will sail the seven seas with me in search of adventure and treasure?"
The others looked at me on the swingset, then at each other and rushed over to join me. The top of the slide became the crow's nest; walking down the slide was walking the plank and an old borrowed sheet became a sail. I had just seen an Errol Flynn movie and was an expert of the heroic exploits of pirates. Our pirates never plundered, unless in a good cause like taking booty from bad pirates to help an orphanage. We operated more like the Coast Guard, rescuing people and making the world safe for democracy.
Over that summer and through years to follow we sailed the high seas, explored Tarzan's jungle, swinging from a rope tied to a branch of the cherry tree, rode with the "Rawhide" cowboys, robbed from the rich and gave to the poor in our Lincoln green, flew with Superman and the Justice League, rescued stranded soldiers from the beaches of Normandy, and went to Oz in a balloon that resembled a hammock to the uninitiated. when the weather drove us indoors we worked at The Daily Planet, attended boarding school and went to New York where we were striving actresses, singers and ballerinas. Sometimes we went to Hollywood for screen tests. We ate at The Brown Derby and 21 and had apartments in Soho and Greenwich Village. We invented games with elements of fairy tales and mythology. The games grew as we did and the grape arbor became Thoreau's cabin and when the valiant crew of the Enterprise went into space we commandeered a camper and explored other worlds with them.
We tried not to grow up, but gradually we left our make believe worlds. Boyfriends and school dances and Drama and Glee Club and football and basketball games and the important work of filling our hope chests drew people away.
A few days before high school graduation one of the other girls and I were walking around the old neighborhood. We knew we would be saying goodbye soon, perhaps forever.
"Remember how we used to play all those games?" she asked.
"We were in just about every yard, even the ones where they didn't have kids," I replied.
"I wonder if our children will play any of those games," she mused.
"I think they will. Let's see," I answered. "We can, you know."
"What do you mean?"
"If we climb that apple tree we might be able to see into the future," I explained.
"Let's!" she agreed.
So we climbed the tree that had stood deep in the heart of Sherwood Forest one day and in a secret garden another.
"There they are," I said, pointing off into the distance.
"Where?" she said, squinting.
"Second star to the right and straight on till morning. That's where we'll find our children, where we always found our dreams."
"Yes, I see them now," she said, like me, smiling and brushing away a tear.
Emily Hart is still seeking adventures, though mostly armchair style with favorite books. Though she was familiar with the names of many brands of cigarette she never smoked.
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)