Sometimes when I go to bed, I visualize myself in a tiny house high in the treetops in Channelwood, the imaginary village that serves as a refuge for my younger selves. One night not long ago, I was picturing myself in a comfortable bed there, with moonlight streaming through the open shutters of a window with no glass.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I was just about to doze off when the thought occurred to me that Channelwood was still very sparsely populated. The village had only three residents, and the last time I added a new character was in 2017.

While I was sleepily wondering what other characters might suit the story, a little hand reached over the windowsill. Then a head came into view, with bangs and barrettes, soon followed by a body in a frilly dress and white stockings.

“Hello,” I greeted this unexpected guest, whose appearance at the window showed impressive tree-climbing skills, given how high above the ground we were. “Nice climb.”

“I didn’t climb, I flew,” my visitor replied grandly, sliding with ease through the window and sitting cross-legged on the rug. “With fairy dust. You may call me Peter.”

Recognition struck me right away. This was my five-year-old past self, who had loved playing at being Peter Pan and had wanted to fly away to the Neverland instead of going to kindergarten. It wasn’t because I disliked the school, nor was it about wanting to be a boy—although I do remember thinking it was kind of unfair that people couldn’t just pick their gender every morning when they woke up, like choosing clothes for the day. Rather, at five years old, I just wanted to fly with the fairies.

“Very well, Peter,” I played along. “What brings you to my window on this fine night?”

“I was playing tag with a fairy when I got my shadow caught in a tree. By the time I had it untangled, the fairy had forgotten all about our game and was nowhere to be found. Fairies are such scatterbrained creatures. After that I saw your window, and I decided to look in and see what I could discover. I always love new adventures, and midnight is such a wonderful time for adventures, don’t you think so?”

“Yes, in the moonlight things look magical,” I agreed. “Sometimes I imagine that I could step onto a shining staircase and walk up to the moon and stars.”

That fantasy was met with a dismissive gesture. “What for? Who needs stairs when you can fly? If that silly fairy hadn’t wandered off, I would sprinkle you with fairy dust and show you how. It’s really very easy.”

“Maybe next time,” I said.

Just then I heard a loud hooting outside the window. Peter smiled, with moonlight glinting from tiny white teeth, and jumped up from the rug.

“That’s the owl from Neverland. She’s lonely, now that her babies have grown up and left home, and she wants to play jacks with me.”

I couldn’t resist asking the obvious question. “How can owls play jacks, when they’re birds and have no fingers?”

“Owls practice scooping up jacks with their wing feathers until they’re very good at it—better than most humans. She can’t beat me, of course,” and Peter turned to the window and crowed defiantly.

The owl answered with more hoots, which sounded rude enough that they couldn’t be anything other than bird trash talk.

“She’s getting too full of herself. Time to take her down a peg,” and just like that, Peter swung a stockinged leg over the windowsill and was gone.

“Goodbye,” I called after my odd little guest, “and thanks for visiting.”

More crowing and hooting, which soon faded into the distance, were all that I heard in response.

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