Do you remember the original animated Peter Pan movie? There is this one scene in it in which Wendy helps Peter Pan re-attach his shadow with the help of a bar of soap. His shadow looked kind of like the tights my mother made me wear to church on Sundays when I was six years old, and my tights were awful devices of subtle torture, I was sure, so I thought maybe he was on to something with his soap trick.
One Sunday morning, I carefully soaped up my legs in secret. I let the soap dry a bit so that my tights wouldn’t get too wet, and then I pulled my tights on over top. They didn’t go on any easier than usual, but I held out hope that the soap might also help with the falling down and the twisting and the general constricting force of the whole tights-wearing experience.
It turned out to be a less than stellar idea.
Church that day was HELL. My tights, rather than feel less tight, stuck to my skin in spots where the wetter soap now acted as glue, and where they didn’t stick my skin felt tight and itchy. I spent most of the church service trying to twist myself subtly against the pew in an effort both to unstick what was stuck and scratch what was surely a spreading rash.
It dawned on me that an animated character’s issues with re-attaching his shadow might not have as much to do with me and my too-small tights as I had thought it might when I got up that morning. It also dawned on me that I maybe wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box.
Certain that I had done some sort of permanent damage to my skin and completely embarrassed at my self-induced predicament, I spent the next two hours with gritted teeth concentrating on not ripping my tights off during I Sing the Mighty Power of God. There was no way I was going to admit that I had half a bar of Irish Spring caked under my tights because Peter Pan told me it was a good idea.
It seemed obvious to me that Wendy was a scheming jerk for giving him that bar of soap and that Peter Pan was very likely a moron for believing her.
I had this idea that, if we really believed enough and if we practiced hard enough, Brandon and I might be able to fly, and I must have delivered a very inspirational speech, because Brandon believed me. A tiny voice of reason in the back of my head told me that this idea was not one of my best ideas, but I was just a kid, and I had yet to realize the gravity that such a tiny voice of reason could come to bear upon one’s life.
For several afternoons, Brandon and I practiced jumping out as far as we could from the top of his swing set. We took turns pushing off through the air hard with our feet while the other one watched from the ground, shouting out encouragement and offering up pointers about how to gain both height and distance. On a few of those occasions, we were sure that we had actually flown, if only for the briefest of moments before we thudded into the sandbox, defeated by gravity.
I really don’t want to tell you what happened next, because I still feel responsible for it all, but I’ve gone this far with it, so I’ll just get to the point.
Brandon, being as he was so very inspired by my passionate telling of Peter Pan, continued to practice flying on his own one afternoon after I had gone home for supper. With no friend to spot him and with his mother quite unaware of his activities in the back yard, there is no way for anyone to know for sure how long he lay alone on the lawn semi-conscious after he broke his arm.
It turns out that small children should not fling themselves repeatedly through the air from the top of a swing set. Who knew? We played fast and loose with safety in the late 1970s.
Apparently, his mother heard him mewling weakly from his resting place next to the sandbox and demanded that he stop being such a baby. And then she saw the bizarre angle of his once straight forearm. And then she felt as guilty as I would the next day when I came by to play with Brandon only to find him on his sofa with his arm in a cast up to the armpit resting on a pillow.
Come to think of it, my later incident with the tights and the Irish Spring soap was probably some kind of comedic karmic retribution for convincing Brandon to throw himself repeatedly off the top of his swing set. If I’ve learned anything in this life, it is that the universe has a rather dark sense of humour.