I won’t grow up
That song, sung by Mary Martin in the musical version of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” and the sentiment it expressed, has stayed with me since I first heard it at age five. “I won’t grow up, I don’t want to wear a tie. Or a serious expression, in the middle of July. And if it means I must prepare to shoulder burdens with a worried air, I’ll never grow up, never grow up—Not I!” I heard it again last week (in my head, of course) as I visited with the young folks taking part in the Kids Spring Break Classes program at the Catskill Art Society (CAS) in Livingston Manor, NY. Teachers Ramona Jan, Helena Pittman, Nancy Sadler and Angela Fremont led classes for various age groups in puppet-making, storybook construction, creating city-scapes (and townsfolk) and stop-motion animation for the high school set.
Peter Pan’s sentiment rang in my head as I perused the curriculum: “I won’t grow up, I don’t want to go to school, just to learn to be a parrot, and recite a silly rule.” While observing the assorted groups and chatting with the kids, it became apparent that, in contradistinction to Pan’s dismal view of attending school, all involved were having a blast. As parents and friends filtered in for the closing day presentations, CAS Executive Director Sally Wright addressed the audience. “Your children are exceptional,” she enthused, as I nodded in agreement. Encouraged to share their experiences, several of the students spoke, following the performance showcasing the puppets they had made under instructor Jan’s tutelage. “My favorite part [of the class] was making new friends” 10-year-old Brianna said, “and learning new skills, even when we made mistakes.” Pointing out that there is always something to be learned, she concluded that “even mistakes can be turned into art.”
Teachers took turns explaining how the kids learned some art history while creating watercolor paintings inspired by abstract impressionist Jackson Pollack and a bit of geography while constructing flag books. A short animated film made by 10th-graders Xander O’Hara and Samuel Quick under the guidance of instructor Fremont followed. I left Livingston Manor and CAS with a song in my heart and hope for the future, knowing that with programs and teachers like these in the Upper Delaware River region, there is much to be hopeful about.
The following day, and with Peter Pan still haunting my reverie, I recharged my batteries and prepared to take pictures of Peter Rabbit and friends at the Duggan School in the town of Bethel, where families were pulling into the lot in anticipation of the annual Easter egg hunt, which attracts kids of all age groups dressed in their Sunday best. With the coloring contest in full swing, I admired the children’s handiwork, schmoozed with parents and helped Dharma the Wonder Dog pass out “pawtographs” before the main event. Under the guidance of an amazing (IMHO) group of volunteers, the yearly free-for-all always goes off without a hitch, and no child goes home empty-handed.
As different age groups swarmed the schoolyard in search of the elusive “golden egg” I heard the song yet again. “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up—not me.” As I watched the children frolic, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic for my own childhood (was it really that long ago?) and the reckless abandon with which my pals and I also played. Photographing the kids displaying their baskets filled with toys and sweets, I smiled, determined to be present and bask in the glow of their shining faces, before heading home and the reality of adulthood. With images of Peter, Wendy and the Lost Boys swirling in my head, I daydreamed momentarily, recalling what it was like to be that innocent, thankful that there is still a little kid in all of us. “For Neverland will always be the home of youth and joy and liberty. I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up—not me.”
To view all of the photos from the Town of Bethel Easter Egg Hunt and party, go to www.Facebook.com/theriverreporter.