The mention of a fairy-tale life conjures up visions of glittering castles and beautiful princesses being swept away to a happily-ever-after by charming princes on white stallions. In my youth, I dreamed, as many girls do, that such a perfect life might be in my future. As the years went by, experience taught me that fairy tales are only make believe. More recently, I was struck by the realization that my life here in Guatemala bears a remarkable similarity to a fairy tale. Devoid of fancy gowns and royal soirees, my fairy tale is akin to J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
Lacking pixie dust, I flew to my Neverland with the aid of an airplane and a pick-up truck. It is an idyllic, walled enclave, much like an island, in the midst of a rural area. This location is not exactly "second star to the right and straight on till morning," but somewhere nearby and equally as lush and beautiful in flora and fauna.
I am a much older Wendy, but similarly, on a great adventure. Instead of a younger brother John, I have the wise Fr. John at my side. Our rambunctious living companions are eighteen "lost boys" (ages 11 - 18) who have been abandoned by their families for various reasons. Our Peter Pan, the leader of this rag-tag clan by virtue of his strong sense of justice and fearlessness, is Fr. Andres Giron. Although he may be aging physically, at his core, Fr. Andres is still a boy who won't grow up. Through the years, he has gathered in many lost boys and, instead of denying them adulthood, has guided them and educated them to a better life. Some of them remain with him as Orthodox priests. Others have gone on to careers in agriculture, education, law, and medicine. Like Peter Pan, Fr. Andres has vanquished pirates and aided Indians. In other words, during the tragic days of civil conflict, he was able to wrest land from the hands of the powers that had unjustly appropriated it and return it to the native Mayans. People still seek out Fr. Andres to settle disputes and to advocate for them when they are wronged.
We have two Princess Tiger Lilys in our fairy tale. They are Maria (age 18) and Hortensia (14) lovely Mayan girls who have also sought refuge here. This safe haven offers them sustenance and an education. Now where would Peter Pan be without Tinker Bell? That spot is filled by nine-year-old Crista, the daughter of our cook. A precious sprite who flits about and surprises us with her abundant hugs, she brightens our days with her sunny smiles. Vying for the role of the crocodile, are a great variety of iguanas, scorpions, and mosquitoes. They do not warn us with a tick-tock, tick-tock, but are ready to take a bite out of us, nonetheless.
Just as Wendy repaired and reattached Peter's shadow with her needle and thread, I am sewing and repairing the black cassocks for the priests here. I'm also helping to cook and mother the lost boys. There is one more similarity in my fairy-tale existence. As much as Wendy enjoyed her adventures in Neverland, she longed to return to her rightful place as a member of the Darling family of Kensington Gardens. I, too, miss my friends and family back in Pittsburgh and look forward to the day when I fly back to them. They are, still and all, my happily ever after.
I'm thinking happy thoughts....pass the pixie dust!