Learning How to Say Good-bye

I’ve always had a soft spot for Peter Pan — even if I’ve never been able to pinpoint precisely what caught my attention and heart so firmly. It’s not the tale that got me into my creative imagining, nor did my fondness derive from the fact that the titular charactering shared a name with my brother (Sorry, Peter).

I suppose my great adoration for the story began simply thanks to the magic of Disney and the appeal of flying to a star called Neverland where you could avoid aging and go on fantastic adventures. There is one thing I know for certain though. This adoration was most certainly cemented by the live action film they made in 2003 with Jeremy Sumpter as Peter Pan.

Photo Courtesy of Fan Pop
Such youth, such cute. | Photo Courtesy of Fan Pop

Can you blame me? I was nine, and he was adorable. Heck, I’m 21, and he’s still adorable.

But films and fangirl drivel aside, I do genuinely love the story of Peter Pan itself.

I first read my book-fair-bought, Scholastic Classics edition of the story when I was in elementary school, and found my enthusiasm dampened a fair bit. The book is admittedly a far cry from the films.

Much like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, Peter Pan was a tale that I had to revisit. The writing will always remain simple and the messages far more overt than those found in a Jane Austen novel, but these stylistic features fit the tone of the book and Peter’s perpetual youth. We couldn’t force Peter and the reader to grow up by forcing them to analyze comma placement now, could we?

Of course, there is potentially and undoubtedly much more to be taken from this tale, but I’d like to spend some time on the simple things. More precisely, the quote that caught the attention of my younger self and still continues to hold the attention of my older self (who obviously didn’t get to visit Neverland):

Never say good-bye, because good-bye means going away, and going away means forgetting. —J.M. Barrie

Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock
I’d like to imagine that this could be found on a contemporary day Wendy’s dresser. | Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock

I cited this quote a lot in high school, particularly when my close friends began graduating and when I went through my own graduation festivities because it was quite apt. I just had no idea that it would become even more evocative three years down the line.

Since spring semester ended, I’ve had the opportunity to stay at home with my parents for two weeks, and see my brother for a few days in the middle — both of which now fall firmly under the categories of “joy” and “luxury” because I barely get to see them as often as I would like.

I’m not exaggerating.

I’ve always enjoyed spending time with my family, but my leaving for college and my brother’s departure for grad school the subsequent year didn’t affect me too greatly at the time. I had been fortunate – UC Berkeley is barely a hop, skip, and a boat ride away from my hometown, and my brother was also there for his undergrad years. It’d been three years since he’d first left home for college, and I’d gotten accustomed to not seeing him very often, so his departure to a further school also didn’t quite register to me — at the time.

But somehow, in this past month, I’ve found myself saying three of the hardest good-byes I’ve ever said in my life. One was to my parents, and the other two were to my brother as his temporary stays at home – home home – ended.

London Walls | Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock
Barrie’s London walls, perhaps? | Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock

As it often – or almost always – is with my emotions, I’m not sure how or when this came about. I’m an emotional person, but this – this wanting to hold on another second, minute longer in a hug and chewing the inside of my cheek before I walked away – was totally new, and I was not prepared for it in any way, shape, or form.

There is a level of irony found in all of this.

I now understand why my “elders” (I use that term to loosely encompass everyone older than me, by the way.) always took the to tell me some form of the adage: “Treasure this time, because you’ll find yourself longing for them in the future.”

Isn’t it funny how you really only understand some things when it’s too late?

I miss spending time with my parents, even if spending time means going grocery shopping every day. I miss seeing my brother loiter in the hallway as he brushes his teeth. Heck, I like going grocery shopping with my parents, and if being with my brother means I’m going to get told that “I’m a poop” about five times a day, I’ll take it. Any day.

I hate saying good-byes to my family. Because a good-bye like the ones I’ve had to say recently are the ones that come inevitably before we go our separate ways and leave each other for a prolonged period of time. And while I’m never going to forget my family no matter how long we’re away from each other, the sadness I feel hurts more than forgetting because if I’ve forgotten, I’m not going to have anything to remember to hurt about anymore.

This isn’t to say that I have a bone to pick with J.M. Barrie or Peter on this one. I don’t. But I’d like to tweak his statement just a bit.

Departures or arrivals? | Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock
Departures or arrivals? | Photo Courtesy of Death to the Stock

As much as the pain of going away hurts, forgetting would be even worse. And yet somehow, over time, we do find ourselves forgetting about that pain of departure because we move on with our lives.

I don’t like saying good-byes. Because good-byes mean going away, and going away means a pain even worse than forgetting and eventually forgetting that you had the pain in the first place.

I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget why I was so upset over a good-bye or leaving, because I love my family and my extraordinarily belated realization that I’d taken my time at home home for granted isn’t going to be for naught. Not if I can help it.

To my parents who may wonder if I’m writing this on severe lack of sleep, and to my brother who is potentially saying “Ew” behind his computer — don’t worry; I’m sane, I’m sleeping enough, and so on and so forth.

I just miss you, and wish we could spend more time together. See you soon?

Much love always,

2 thoughts on “Learning How to Say Good-bye

  1. I just happened upon your beautiful piece. It came at a very emotional time for me.
    I am a very proud Grandmother of 6 amazing children.
    One of them is from a set of triplets who are 23 yrs old. He will be moving to the West Coast to seek his dream. We’ve always had an amazing bond, I’d say stronger than the other boys, probably equal to his sister.
    I dread saying goodbye to him this Summer, and then I read your story.
    Thank you deeply, from my heart. I hope that I’ll be able to believe that he will feel the same way about all of us when he leaves.
    God Bless you and the gift you’ve been given.

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