Do You Believe in Magic
I was in college the first time I went to see David Copperfield perform live. Now, prior to this, I’d always enjoyed watching magic shows. The tricks and illusions were cool and I’d always go, “huh. How’d they do that?” at the end. Unlike the pestering voice I’m sure most magicians hear in their heads upon seeing a new illusion performed, I never cared about how the tricks were performed. It was just neat. And then I went to the David Copperfield show. When he did his snow illusion, something inside my heart melted. It wasn’t just the tricks I fell in love with, you see. David Copperfield is a truly gifted storyteller. His illusions pull you into whatever story he’s telling until you see it. As a writer, this pretty much cemented my appreciation and awe of his work. It made me believe in wonder and awe again. I knew the tricks and illusions weren’t real. I knew they were tricks. But I didn’t care. I simply watched and let myself go in the magic. I ended up being fortunate enough to see him perform 3 times before he took the show to Vegas.
Life happened, and I grew. I never lost my awe of true magic but I never really gave much time or energy to watching other performers, either. I didn’t invest much time, energy or even thought into magic. Indeed, I rarely watched David Copperfield anymore either. If I happened to run across a special on TV, I would watch it. But I didn’t seek it out. I didn’t follow him. It seemed as though that was the end of the magic. But then something happened. I had daughters. Two of them. And, around six years ago, we took them to a place called Beech Bend Amusement Park in Bowling Green, KY. Dedicated readers of this blog might remember that, several months ago, I wrote this post about how grateful I felt and how amazing our first day of the Season at the park was. I wrote about how the extra time with my girls, time spent away from the phone and Internet and bills, was cherished and priceless. I wrote about how kind and wonderful the staff at the park have unfailingly been. Today, Mrs. Slaughter in the gift shop made us smile by telling my eldest it was okay to get an extra rock or two in the “bag of rocks” we were purchasing and promising my youngest that it was okay to slip on the new t-shirt there in the store. She told us how she’s worked there for seven years and that she misses it during the Winter. She loves the people. And we love Mrs. Slaughter. My eldest stumped her toe today while walking. It wasn’t bad but she wanted a band-aid. I promised her we would go to the gift shop and see about getting one after we rode the ride. We rode the Zero G and, as we were getting off the ride, I said something about “going to get that band-aid.” The attendant of the Zero G said, “I have one,” and pulled out a first-aid kit, gave us a band-aid. Such a small thing… but any mother knows that band-aids are miracle-workers. It was just another example of the sort of downhome, genuine kindness the staff there exemplify.
Then, we went to Dinky Gowen’s magic show.
We started coming to Dinky’s show years ago. We’ve seen him perform the same illusions and tricks for years. It’s only a thirty-minute show. But something happened a couple years ago when we watched it. A light sparked in my youngest daughter’s eyes. We would go home and she started asking to do magic. She would put something on the table, cover it with a sheet, tell me to watch, and then sneak the item from beneath the sheet and say, “Tada!” It was magic! And, actually, it was. Because it made her happy. The next time we went back to Beech Bend, I got the magic kit Dinky sells. Although the “gel” never really worked for our drinks, it took me forever to figure out the magic stick trick and the magic coloring book made my daughters instantly famous among their friends. A friend of ours liked the “magic box” so much we let him borrow it for a week, which nearly sent my daughter into a state of paralyzed shock. Meanwhile, she continued to improvise her own magic tricks around the house. All of this spurred thoughts of David Copperfield in my head, because he was the one that made me see wonder. So I looked him up again. I let Alight watch the snow trick. And the most bizarre thing happened: she didn’t really care about Copperfield. But she loved Dinky. This took me some time to process—I mean, it was snow! But then… it struck me that I’m not a magician. Alight is. The little voice that screams “HOW WAS THAT DONE???” has never played like a broken soundtrack in my head. See, I’m a writer. I’m a storyteller. I want the story. Alight wants the magic. Dinky’s magic isn’t drawn out—it’s to the point and immediate. For a six year old, this is ideal. Soon, whenever we visited Beech Bend, the first thing we had to do was make sure of the time for the magic show: obviously, we couldn’t be late.
As interested as she is in magic, Alight is shy about going up on stage. Dinky uses audience members for several of his acts. My oldest daughter, Breathe, has no qualms about performing: her hand is almost always the very first in the air. Dinky has chosen her a time or two to help him in his acts. She thinks this is awesome, of course. But Alight thinks it is magic. Her eyes get wide and she sees everything. For instance, coming home from the park the last time, Alight asked me to download a song for her. When I asked which one, she said, “I don’t know. It plays at the magic show. It’s got ‘magic’ in it.” Some distant bell went off and I was able to find “Do you believe in magic” for her. Suddenly, it dawned on me that magic may be Alight’s written word. For me, writing has always been the key to the universe: it’s been my friend and what has sparked confidence where once there was none. But Dinky’s magic show opened a new universe for my daughter. So, I e-mailed Dinky the last time we saw his show, just to say thank you. He responded back in kind and encouraged us to say hello the next time we saw his show. I’m rather reluctant to intrude on other people’s time. Having had book signings and speaking engagements, I know that you feel pressed for time, staying on schedule and selling whatever products you have available so I am always reluctant to approach when there may be others wanting to buy products. Still, it was important for Alight to meet him. So we went up and said hello. He remembered my e-mail and was very gracious and generous both in conversation and in the giving of his time. He told us about a magic club that meets in Nashville and offered to help connect us. He also encouraged the girls to keep him updated as to their progress with magic and he told us about an upcoming two-hour show he has in KY. At the end, he also gave the girls a poster. In the car ride on the way home, Alight asked me if he could sign it for her next time and she is sleeping with it beside her pillow tonight.
To be honest with you, I feel completely out of my league here. I thought I would be helpful by purchasing her a new magic kit for Christmas. I went to research them and got totally overwhelmed: I wanted something good—-but also within her physical and mental capabilities. I wanted something more “real” than a “toy”—–but also something that was safe and within financial budgets. I settled for a kit from Phillips—-but I’m uncertain, still, if I made the right decision or if I should “add to” the kit for Christmas. See…. I’m not a magician and I don’t know the secrets to the tricks to teach them to Alight. All I do know is that, as a mother, seeing my child’s eyes light up is one of the greatest joys of my life. Seeing my child dance with excitement and enthusiasm over something is important. Writing healed very raw, very deep wounds and I do not believe I would have had the courage to write at all had my mother not supported the idea. So I want to do everything I can to support her love and fascination of magic. And I feel intense gratitude for those who lit a spark I wouldn’t have even known to try and light.
Do you believe in magic?
The question sparks thoughts of things like Santa Claus and Tinkerbell and magicians who vanish—-all of which are impossible. How can you believe in something reason and logic tell you doesn’t exist? What’s there to believe in when you know intellectually that “magic” is just slight of hand or a fancy illusion? It’s very easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of 9 to 5. It’s easy to get lost in bills and cooking dinner and giving baths. Sometimes paying a bill seems like a bigger priority than watching your child “disappear” under a table clocked with a sheet. Sometimes it’s easy to threaten mischievous children with the warning that, if they’re “naughty”, Santa won’t come to them. Except the truth is, of course, that that’s a lie. Santa Claus -will- come to them because no loving parent who is able to afford even a single gift will deny her children the joy of a Christmas morning, no matter how simple it may be. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter that I can see my child’s feet under the table when she is supposed to have “vanished.” What matters is the expression on her face when I clap my hands anyway and call her “our magician.” What matters is that she thinks she can do it. You see…. confidence and self-esteem are among the most precious of gifts that we can instill in our children. For decades, I believed that the only thing I was good at was writing….. but that was enough. It didn’t matter that I was terrible at math and sports or that I didn’t have any friends. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t interested in dating or that I asked to spend pep rallies alone in the English classroom. While none of that was particularly fun, ultimately, it didn’t really matter because I believed I could write. I could do something that my peers couldn’t—-and not only could I do it but, when I did, it freed something in me. It gave me the space to cry or to laugh. It gave me a way to embrace….. me. It gave me the confidence I needed to get through adolescence and even adulthood without breaking apart.
We talked about the magic show for a long time before going to sleep tonight, trying to decide which act was our favorite. The fire-eating magician, Jennifer, took first place for a few of us while watching Breathe “float” on the “flying carpet” was definitely a winner, as well. Watching the “Basket of Death” was fun. While these tricks don’t have the same effect on me personally as Copperfield’s “snow”, they do inspire a sense of wonder and innocence that is timeless. And when Alight sees the basket of death illusion, she sees “snow.” I watch her face light up with hope and inspiration and awe; I see wonder and joy dawn in her eyes and I know that it’s a passion that has the ability to provide her with the same sense of confidence writing gives me. The beauty of a child is that she sees things with eyes that have not become disillusioned by reason or logic or life. She sees the possibility of an immense, challenging and altogether beautiful world. The beauty of a child is that she’s capable of believing in Santa Claus, Tinkerbell and vanishing magicians. The world is truly at her doorstep because she isn’t bound by unspoken rules of logic. She doesn’t “know” pixie dust isn’t real. She doesn’t “know” people can’t really vanish into thin air. And the more she imagines, the more she dreams and the more she dreams, the more she grows in the sure knowledge that life is a beautiful thing and she, an intergral part. I believe in the hope that creativity offers. I believe in the unadulterated passion and enthusiasm that spur a child inspired. I believe good is stronger than evil. I believe dreams come true. I believe that believing is the first step to happiness. And so, yes…. I do “believe in magic.”