Remembering Neverland

Photo: ME

(7-minute read or Listen to it HERE)

THE OLDER I GET, the more I realize there are things I remember and things I don’t. What I also have begun to realize is that the list of each of those things is in somewhat of a constant state of flux. It all depends on where I am in my life at a particular moment. 

Is there a string of thoughts that leads me to a particular memory? Or does a smell, sight, or sound trigger something in my embarrassingly hollow skull that takes me for a “walk down Amnesia Lane,” as Mr. Keating once put it? 

Sights and sounds and smells and all the rest of it should not be underestimated. They may lie dormant for twenty-five years, but each one of them can (collectively or individually), find a way to hit you right between the eyes with a memory you thought was put to bed long ago. 

Then, there are the more obvious memories that may have finally learned how to sleep for three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, making an appearance on the one day that seems determined to never accept its place as ordinary ever again. 

That’s a day that asks you to look around where you are. It’s a day that asks you what you want to do now, in whatever time we have. 

I remember being old enough to learn about President Kennedy’s assassination and asking my parents where they were when it all went down. I wanted to know what they were doing. Their stories of that one day fascinated me. As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to see how I’ve been accumulating those kinds of moments in my own life. 

I was in detention with Mr. C for fighting the day Ronald Reagan got shot. 

I was taking a Geometry exam when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

I was lying in my bed with Malisa and our daughter Mikaela when our third-floor apartment shook pictures off its walls and slid our furniture around. 

“What was that, Scott?”

“I don’t know. I’ll check outside. Stay right here. Don’t move.”

Someone had just blown a hole in Oklahoma City’s heart. 

Can it be twenty-five years? Of course it can. It has been. Funny. And not.

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. April 19, 1995 AP file photo

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma had James Rocco at the helm at the time. He felt there was something the theater community could do, and he was right. We needed a fundraising concert. So, we had one. 

The stars came in from all over, and it was a whirlwind. One rehearsal with Joel Levine and the OKC Philharmonic and then the show. It was a long day. 

I was a local artist, invited to participate by Jamie, and I was just thrilled to be able to do something. With a newborn only twenty days old on the day it happened and a wife recovering, I had been unsure about how I could be of any use. 

During the rehearsal for the concert, many of us sat in the theater’s balcony to watch the “show” as each singer ran through their number with the orchestra. They were all so wonderful, one after the next. 

Then, Sandy Duncan took center stage. 

“Testing. Is it working? Oh, I can hear it now, thanks! Hi, everybody!!”

We were chatting about nothing in the balcony. I was probably sitting back with my feet up on the seats in front of me. 

“Okay, you want to try it once or twice?” she asked. “Okay, perfect! Here we go!”

She bowed her head slightly to prepare, then raised her head to signal she was ready. My eyes locked onto her. It suddenly became perfectly crystal-clear to me that Sandy Duncan had left the building, and Peter Pan had just landed on center stage. 

We were all about to take flight.

I have a place where dreams are born, And time is never planned. It’s not on any chart, You must find it with your heart. Never Never Land.

“Where is this place where dreams are born?” my heart asked, as Peter began.

It might be miles beyond the moon, Or right there where you stand. Just keep an open mind, And then suddenly you’ll find, Never Never Land.

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, More precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, You can never, never grow old.”

I suddenly realized everyone had gotten quiet and was beginning to lean forward a little. I was sitting in the fourth row of the balcony, dead center, hypnotized by this amazing creature before me, before us all. I can remember the feeling now.

And that’s my home where dreams are born, And time is never planned. Just think of lovely things. And your heart will fly on wings, Forever in Never Never Land.

“Take me to this place, Peter,” my heart pleaded. “I want to stay there. I want to live there!”

You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, More precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, You can never, never grow old.

And that’s my home where dreams are born, And time is never planned. Just think of lovely things. And your heart will fly on wings, Forever in Never Never Land.

There was a moment of time, just after the song finished, when there was silence. It was probably less than a second long, but I lived a lifetime in that moment. Tears were streaming down my face as they are right now as I write this in remembrance. I am in that moment again right now, and I can go there whenever I like, whenever I want to, whenever I need to. 

Then, the entire theater erupted in applause. Every duty being performed in the rush to prepare the theater for this special concert stopped, and those performing the duties clapped and cheered, grateful for the opportunity to leave the sadness for just a moment and fly to a place where dreams are born and time is never planned.  

Sandy Duncan’s performance of “Neverland” at a rehearsal for what was (up until that time, God help us) the saddest collective occasion I’d ever been a part of as an artist changed my world forever.

Sometimes, we need individual healing moments and sometimes we need collective healing moments. Once in a while, both of those moments can happen at the same time. 

This moment was/is a big one for me. It’s what I’m choosing to remember today. 

25 years. 

I wish you peace. 

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