How My Lousy Sketch of Peter Pan Inspired My Daughter (Or So I Like to Think)Lawrence Vaughan
Our older daughter, Emma-Claire, is a sophomore this fall at LCAD, Laguna College of Art and Design, majoring in animation. She is also taking a Tuesday night class at the Animation Guild on Hollywood Way in Burbank. It is kind of cool dropping her off at the Union Local office, and hanging around in Burbank . . . for like four hours. No, seriously. Bicycle John’s and The Train Shack are really close by, places where I can spend hours remembering stuff I never could afford as a boy.
Anyway, Emmie’s artistic abilities arose in elementary school. My experience of her talent was like stumbling upon a mirage only to find that it is real–a real spring of fresh water. I felt vindicated, vicariously, after thirteen years of my own barely daubing.
Example: when the second graders did these huge tempera-paint flowers, hers actually looked like Georgia Okeefe painted it. The teacher directed my wife Melissa’s and my gaze to Emmie’s most “different” flower in the class at Back to School Night. We wondered where such talent and discipline came from! Just kidding: source=mom.
Sometimes I flatter myself that my having drawn Peter Pan for Emmie exactly once– indeed the only human-type figure I ever attempted–when she was two years old somehow inspired her. Who can know these things?
Some days while Mom was in Physical Therapy graduate school, Emmie and I got pretty bored. I knew she was bored when she would lie down on the carpet and stare up at the popcorn ceiling in her room in our condo. So I grabbed the color pencils and asked her, “What do you want me to draw?” She didn’t blink an eye and replied, “Peter Pan, of course, Daddy.”
I do remember I got his face pretty good, but his arm and hand looked like a seal flipper, not humanoid at all.
(I write “humanoid” in remembrance of the movie Stand by Me. The boys are sitting around the campfire talking about Annette Funicello’s bosom, when suddenly one makes the natural 1950s leap from Annette, the Mouseketeer to the Disney stable of cartoon characters: “Wait. Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck, Pluto’s a dog. What is Goofy?” he asks in horror. That’s good critical thinking.)
“Why Peter Pan?” you may ask. I thought at first Emmie might have associated with Wendy who–being the female protagonist– is maternal and charitable in the British sense of the word. But after reading an earlier draft of this article, Emmie said that she actually associated more with Peter Pan –as I suspect most people probably do. Peter is free. He can fly and is never afraid and never has to grow up. She said that when she finally realized Peter wasn’t going to come take her to Neverland and that she was already in the middle of growing up that she felt trapped– like the whole world had been keeping a horrible joke from her and now that she couldn’t escape it was laughing in her face. But, as she faced having to grow up, she told me this,”I’ve found that growing up doesn’t mean never reaching Neverland or Faerie or any “other world.” They’ll always be there and all growing up has done is open my eyes to the many, many paths and doors that lead there. After all, C.S. Lewis said Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again,’ and thankfully I never stopped.”
I’m glad Emmie didn’t leave me for good to become a Lost Girl and though she never flew around her room– that I witnessed– I have no doubt she’s seen Neverland and will always be able to find her way back there.
And maybe, along the many trips to Neverland, Emma-Claire will compensate for my artistic failure! After all she often works all the night through and straight on ’til morning.