The change came slowly for Peter. It was so slow that Peter himself didn’t realize it until after it had happened. Of course, when Peter realized that the change had happened, he told everyone that he’d known it all along, for Peter Pan was a very cocky boy. So he would talk, and as he talked he nodded sagely, and that air of authority that surrounded him shivered delightfully.
The change is this: Peter Pan started to remember things. Or rather, he ceased to forget.
Oftentimes, Peter would have whole adventures and then simply forget them. He would forget killing villains, like his arch-enemy Captain James Hook, pirate extraordinaire. He would forget the Lost Boys and his mother, Wendy. And sometimes Peter even forgot bosom friends, like his fairy, Tinker Bell.
Peter was good at forgetting. This is what made him stay a boy for so long. Because, as everyone knows, it’s when you start remembering things that you start to grow up. You can’t remember something without learning from it, or changing. You become sad when someone you love has died, or been lost. You become wiser after falling for a trap. When you remember something that has happened, you become a different person from the person you were before you experience the thing that happened.
Peter Pan did not want to be different. Peter wanted to remain a boy forever and have adventures.
Let us eavesdrop on Peter and observe the moment he realizes that he’s changed. It’s daytime at the lagoon, and the mermaids are sitting on their rock, combing their long hair. There is a small boy crouched in the tall grass beside the water. Peter – for the boy who we’re seeing is Peter – slithers through the grass on his stomach. He reaches the water and slips in silently, bright eyes on the reclining mermaids.
He has an extra long look for the ivory comb that one of the mermaids has lain down. You see, a mermaid’s comb is very important to her because every mermaid gets only the one comb her whole life. It is given to her the day her tail scales stop changing colors and it goes with her when she dies and is borne away by the current as her family watches.
Naturally, Peter thought it would be good fun to steal the mermaid’s comb. As we watch, Peter eyes the comb, takes a deep breath and sinks under the warm waters. It is then, suspended underwater, that he has an epiphany. It comes in the form of a picture growing steadily brighter in his mind’s eye. It is a picture of a beautiful mermaid alone on her rock. The mermaid is crying and she holds her long hair in her lap. It’s tangled and knotted.
Peter is so shocked that his arms and legs stop moving and he bobs up to the surface. There he treads water for some time, thinking. Peter remembers that he had once taken another mermaid’s comb. He had come upon her crying and wanted to return it, but, as often happened with Peter, he had forgotten where he’d put it. And so the mermaid lived the rest of her life combless and died combless.
Remembering this, Peter wrinkles his brow. He then turns on his back and floats back to land and, once on land, he walks home.
During the whole day and that night, Peter is troubled. It is only the next morning when Peter realizes the truth. He remembered something that had happened a while ago. A long while ago. He never before remembered such things which must mean that’s changed. And Peter knows that changing means growing up. When this second epiphany hits, a cold feeling settles deep inside him.
For even Neverland could not stop Peter’s growing up.