Peter Pan has returned home. He left the way he came, with very little fanfare. He didn’t say that he would miss us. He just said goodbye and walked away.
I still don’t know why he came in the first place.
There has to be a reason.
I just don’t know what it was.
It’s hard to know what emotion to feel. Peter Pan obviously enjoyed being with our family. He felt comfortable here. He enjoyed having a holiday from all of his responsibilities.
But he’s still a child from hard places. He is still guarded, emotionally distant. I don’t think he said “yes” in the entire two weeks he was here. Instead, it was “maybe” or “probably” or “I guess so” and usually followed with a shrug. And heaven forbid I ask if he liked something. He would always, always respond with, “No, I hate this.” He would usually laugh and say he was just joking, but never say what he really felt. Once, at the end of the night, I got a “that was so cool time.” It was the most positive feedback I received, and I may have done a little happy dance over it.
He slept until noon or later, every day. If we were doing an activity earlier in the day, he would whine, even when he was the one to suggest it. He would get up when I woke him, but would sleep again in the car…some days, I felt like it was out of principle alone.
He appeared to be underwhelmed by most activities we did. He asked to go to Pittsburgh, so we took a ride on a riverboat there—he said it was stupid, even though he clearly enjoyed himself. We went to an amusement park, and he was having fun…until he got on one ride he disliked. He refused to get on any others for the rest of the day—fear of the unknown, I suppose, displayed in an afternoon-long pouting session.
But we had incredible amounts of fun, too. We spent days with Sprite and the Wilkins family, and there is nothing quite like hearing two boys chatter excitedly in Russian. He joked and laughed and wrestled with abandon. He took to calling Stephanie “taco lady” last hosting, and there is no Mexican that can match her cooking. It was his first request when he got here, and scores of tacos and burritos were eaten.
We spent a lot of time with another family, too. Peter Pan connected with the teen daughter, whom he dubbed Rose. She shared his love of scary movies and the two of them spent a few nights in a realm of Netflix I will never want to explore. It was nice to tap out for a few hours so that they could jump and scream together. Rose and her brother accompanied us to the amusement park, and asked us to go to a car show—something I never would have sought out. We spent lazy days at their house and Rose brought out a side of him I hadn’t seen.
Peter Pan’s favorite moments were the simple ones: swimming with friends, taco dinners, game night. Funny–those were my favorite moments, too.
In a word, he was a teenager. A moody, petulant, immature teenager. A fun-loving, giggly, silly teenager. A struggling, questioning, unsure teenager.
There was no magical breakthrough, no moment of clarity. There were a few shining moments, but nothing extraordinary.
And so he went home, seemingly unchanged.
But there was a reason he came. And whatever it was, he found it here. It was clear that he was happy and satisfied. This was where he wanted to be, and he fully engaged in our interactions.
It’s just that none of that adds up to much of anything on the surface. It feels a little bit like his whole time here was just one big shoulder shrug. I don’t know why he was here. He might not even truly understand it himself.
Sometimes in life, you don’t always get to see the way an investment matters. You don’t really know if you made a difference.
It doesn’t seem like there will be a magical happy ending. It doesn’t even seem like he is real interested in continuing contact with any of us. Probably he does. Maybe. Big shrug.
I didn’t start walking this path for the accolades, or the happy endings, or the things that I could gain. I did it because someone needs to. I did it because that’s what unconditional love means. I did it because what I do with my life needs to mean something beyond my own happiness.
I don’t get to see in Peter Pan’s heart. I don’t know how this has changed him.
I only get to know how this has changed me. I loved. I listened. I built. I gave.
I got to spend time with Stephanie and be part of a whole clan determined to love this boy. I got to sit with one of my best friends, and dig a little deeper together into what it means to love these dear hearts and pursue something larger than ourselves and our own comfort. Because of Peter Pan, I got to have a woman sit on the couch with me and wholly understand the pull of the nontraditional and weird and discuss how it led us to this place…and how we can’t wait to see where else it takes us, because we aren’t done yet.
I got to know Rose better. This girl has quickly endeared herself to me, and I already know that I have found someone who lives in the same sisterhood that I do. Because of Peter Pan, I got to lounge by the pool with an intensely interesting soul and begin to parse out a relationship with her. We progressed over these past few weeks from simply being acquaintances to having a rapport that is wholly ours. I hope that this is a connection that I can continue to cultivate…and I’m excited for all the good things that this could bring.
I think that sometimes that’s the way these things work: we walk down one path with certain expectations or intentions, and in our journey, we find that other parallel adventures happen, too. I may never know what these two weeks meant for Peter Pan, but I know what they meant for me.
Relationships are complicated, tangled things. It’s not always a straight line to find your way home.
But I think I might be getting closer.