Last night I dream of my parents sitting together on our old front steps on a warm summer’s night in our old home in New Jersey. This morning awakened to a crow’s caw, the same crow that sang me awake as a child. Time then was a long hot day punctuated by the bells of the Good Humor truck, sitting on those front steps in the firefly-lit evening with my cat Zorro purring on my lap, all of life before me and all of time inside of me. Mortality was actors fake-dying in the cowboys and Indians show on TV (I remember seeing one get up again by mistake!) or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty lying asleep before kissed back awake by the Prince.
It makes no sense whatsoever to keep repeating to myself “64” and to listen to the clock’s ticking like Captain Hook, terrified that the crocodile of time is back again to devour yet another hand and make yet another body part lame or the grand intelligence and nuances of a hand reduced to a hook. But who can stop the flow of thoughts, good, bad or indifferent? I am blessed beyond reason to have lived these long years and still be able to bike up San Francisco hills, get down and get up off the floor with the 3-year olds, dance up and down the keys of piano more gracefully and energetically than I ever have. But like so many of us flawed mortals, I’m imprisoned by the mathematics of mortality and keep locking myself into the cell of mild despair by counting the minutes and listening for the crocodile’s loud ticking.
Friday I taught a marathon day of classes that by any standard should have left me exhausted—6th grade, 8th grade, 8th grade, 5 year olds, 5 year olds, singing time, 4th grade, 4th grade, carpool, Jewish Home. Non-stop from 8 am to 5 pm with barely a moment of rest, different ages, different music, different groups with different chemistries—and yet came home uplifted and ready to make dinner and play piano for another two hours. Then up the next morning to teach a six-hour workshop and end the night with a four-hour marathon movie at The Castro Theater, Lawrence of Arabia. There was a young man with boundless energy, carried by a sense of destiny across impossible deserts, escaping death in the midst of war, only to be brought down back in England by two bicycles on the wrong side of the road as he drove his motorcycle over the hill.
My destiny is not so grand or sweeping, nothing anyone will ever make an epic film about, but filled with it’s own majestic and dangerous deserts to cross, it’s own sense of the extraordinary felt in the little victories of small children, it’s own cast of marauding enemies trying to kill the human spirit through ignorant education and my own army of rebels fighting for freedom— the freedom of expression, of imagination, of community gathering and celebration. Not a story that will shake the annals of history, but my story nonetheless, my destiny without doubt. It is my own soul’s answer to the ticking of Captain Hook’s crocodile.
And so I rise on a hot September day, ready to shout encouragement through a megaphone at our school’s annual Walkathon and then ride my bike around the edge of San Francisco and glory in the gift of being alive and damn the clock’s ticking! Peter Pan lives on in me, that small boy in New Jersey awakening to the crow’s caw and eager to jump into the day with all of eternity with me and before me.