Friday, October 06, 2006

First Star to the Left

My hands smell of rosemary chicken, cold vomit, and fairy dust.

I tried a new recipe tonight, more ambitious than most, since I tend to select main dishes by asking, "Does it go with French fries?" It involved the dismembering of a chicken, an overnight marinade, and fresh everything. I enjoyed the subtle tang of the lemon and the spicy kick of the rosemary. Peter wasn't so sure about it. Once it was removed from the offending bone and cut into small pieces (suitable for dipping in his ubiquitous ranch dressing, of course), he deigned to try several bites, and even let slip that he might like it a little.

Once I got the dishes cleared and the leftovers packaged up, the family had a little drive to take. We had ended up with one car at home and the other at Michael's work, and we needed to drive the ten minutes to work and pick up the other car. It was going to be a quick trip, and Mary was delighted to discover that she didn't even have to put her shoes on. We tried to sell Peter on that, but once we got in the car, it was evident that he really wanted his shoes.

We decided, unwisely, to attempt to distract him rather than give in to the demands for shoes. "Look, Peter, we're riding in the car! It's dark out! Isn't this fun?" We were only two houses away when the crying turned to coughs, the coughs turned to gags, and the rosemary chicken hit the floor. We sighed, turned the car around, and went home. Michael took Peter upstairs and changed his clothes, and I hauled the carseat out into the yard in the routine that has become mindless from repetition -- hose on, hard spray, ready, aim, squirt. I sprayed it clean and dried it off, fetched three hand towels from the kitchen (one damp, two dry -- don't ask), cleaned up the worst of the inside of the car, and followed it up with warm water and ammonia. We laid a thick towel over the carseat and tried again, this time with shoes.

Trauma forgotten, he started chattering away about his latest fascination, the Disney movie Peter Pan. He falls into verbal patterns with these interests, reciting the same phrases and wishes: "I gonna fly! Peter Pan gotta help me." He wants to go on a pirate ship. The crocodile's coming. He wants to be Captain Hook, with a coat and a hook and a box in a room. (We think this is the treasure chest, but we're not quite sure, since pillows occasionally enter the narrative as well.) This time, though, he wandered into a new flight of fancy, announcing that he would go to Never Never Land, with a whimsical description of who would be there: Everybody, it seems, but Darth Vader, who is relegated in solitary exile to his space ship up in the sky.

Mary joined in the fun, quoting the story's directions to Never Never Land: "First star to the right, and straight on 'til morning." In her usual tangential fashion, she came up with all sorts of ideas of things for Peter to do when he got to the mythical isle, and then asked in a startled voice, "What would happen if you took the first star to the left?" I laughed and said, "Good question!"

The rest of the drive was uneventful, and when we got to Michael's work he took the kids home and I drove the other car home, still smiling to myself at Peter's unexpectedly imaginative ramblings. As I settled into the comfortable roar and rattle of my old Mustang, my mind returned to Mary's comment. What does happen if you take the first star to the left? Are you lost in space? Do you find a different, crocodile-free fairyland? Is it, perhaps, the directions to the Death Star?

I think, though, that maybe that's what happened when Peter was born. We took the first star to the left. I didn't realize it at first, because things look pretty similar at first -- a few rays of light, plenty of dreaming, and a whole lot of being up in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is asleep. But after a while, there's the growing realization that something's funny about the constellations. Lots of stars, yes, nice stars, but they just don't look right. And then the hunch is solidified by the speech therapist's suspicions, verified by the autism specialists, and hammered irrevocably into place by the team of experts from the hospital -- his brain should have turned right at that star back there.

Slowly, we're discovering the geography of this island. We've met a few crocodiles, that's for sure. We found some other Lost Boys, and while we can't always play with them, we can play near them, and that works pretty well. It's a messy little world. There are more diapers than in Never Never Land, and people throw up more. People hit and break things a lot, and some of them can't walk or talk very well.

The best thing about this fairyland, though, is that a lot of the kids have their mommies with them. You don't get to bring your mommy to Never Never Land, but you can bring her here. Also, these mommies come equipped with sharp pointy swords -- pirates don't mess with these gals more than once. The trails through the woods are wheelchair accessible, and the midnight feasts are mostly Cheerios and string cheese. There are no wild Indians, just physical therapists and classroom aides. The nights can be dark, and sometimes the trees close in and the shadows overwhelm the firelight. But here, usually when you least expect it, there's still fairy dust.

Fairy dust like you'd never believe.


At 10/07/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From one mommy to another, my sword is ready and pointed with yours!! Your words are amazing, thanks for sharing! Hope all is well.

Take care,

At 10/16/2006, Anonymous Dana Campbell said...


You've once again brought me to tears. You so accurately describe the emotions within our God given position as mothers of little boys with additional challenges...

I think of you often and pray that you feel God's blessings within this journey to Never-Neverland.


~ Dana (Christian's Mommy!)

At 11/06/2006, Blogger Brent & Tricia Croom said...


I thank God daily for the fairy dust.
This has been a very bad week filled with lots of crockadiles and some ugly pirates. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one out there that is fighting off pirates for my little prince.


At 5/13/2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The internet takes us to strange places. Last week during parent conferences at school, a parent asked for directions. She was told to "take a right at the first hall, then go straight on 'til the end". That phrase sounded familiar, but I could not remember where I had heard it. For a few days this puzzle nagged me. I finally sat down at the computer and did a few Google searches. They showed me the directions to Peter Pan's Never Never Land were "First star on the right, then straight on 'till morning". Okay, so I found the answer to my question, but I also found something else. My Google search led me to your post about rosemary chicken and your son Peter.

Thank you for sharing your story.

At 5/22/2011, Blogger Mommer said...

Philip, thank you so much for your comment - I am always glad when one of these older posts strikes a chord with someone!


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