“I don’t know if you have ever seem a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.”
This is a snippet from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It was ahead of its time in some ways, because Mind Mapping is indeed a thing. I don’t know if the Neurologists would agree its the same thing, but I see the connection. Here is a map of Justine’s five year old mind this morning, according to the little madam herself. I’m sure if I asked her to make another one this evening, it would look entirely different.
For today, we have memories of baby bottles and boobies, her favorite current foods, pets (imaginary, past, and future), and her daily reality of boys’ and girls’ eyes.
Every day I visit Vernon, I show up without a clue of what will be on his mind that day: what concept he might get stuck on, what names he might remember. Will he be comfortable or agitated? Will he show improvement or have slipped backward again? I think if we were to map his mind, it would be a lot like Justine’s illustration here. Maybe there wouldn’t be any pet snails named Sophie on his, but it might look as simple.
What would he have? His family,most certainly. Home. Drinks of water would figure prominently,of course. American Football is starting to make an appearance. Bed.
But is there a Neverland of his own in there? Does he imagine beautiful things, does he think about God, life and death, or his connection to the greater world? The soul has a mind of its own, deeper than we can map. And what about Dreams?
He hasn’t expressed any of this yet, but I wonder—especially since I am still reading Peter Pan to him during our Dialysis sessions, and he can’t get enough. It’s the one book I’ve been able to read to him where he gets mad when I stop for a break. “Keep READING!” he demands. Honestly, as much as love the story, the book gets a difficult to read out loud for long periods, what with its heavy vocabulary and constant twists and turns. (Obviously, children were much better spoken 110 years ago.) It’s filled with wonder as well as violence. But the thing that I find most fascinating about the classic story this round is the constant theme of forgetting. It’s a natural part of childhood and growing-up.
Wendy tries to remind the Lost Boys of their own nearly-forgotten mothers even as her own memories of her parents begin to fade. But no matter, she knows they are there, leaving the window open for her return. She also tells stories to the boys to keep their imaginations full and gives them ‘medicine’ every night before bed, because this is what mothers do.
Between chapters, I often read letters that Vernon’s mother has sent from England. They arrive every week in proper red, white, and blue airmail envelopes, full of little reminders of life in the neighborhood in which he grew up. I’m sure they provide comfort and she writes so descriptively, it is easy to picture exactly what she is writing about. I’m sure they jog his memory in ways I cannot, and I’d like to think the little stories she sends pour into his inner-life, the one that stays with him while he lies alone in his bedroom.
Sometimes its as if he is a wounded Lost Boy and I am Wendy, trying to stimulate his mind with my chatter and care, trying to remind him of all he’s forgotten. And then it starts all over the next day—an awfully big adventure.
Here are some special quotes from the book. I personally find a little of Vernon in each one.
“The difference between him and the other boys at such a time was that they knew it was make-believe, while to him, make-believe and true were exactly the same thing. This sometimes troubled them, as when they had to make-believe that they had had their dinners.”
“Peter invented, with Wendy’s help, a new game that fascinated him enormously, until he suddenly had no more interest in it, which, as you have been told, was what always happened with his games. It consisted in pretending not to have adventures…”
“Peter had seen many tragedies, but he had forgotten them all.”
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
“I taught you to fight and to fly. What more could there be?”
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder… or forgetful.”