Often I think about the selves we leave behind, trailing after us like ghosts of ourselves at any given second. The one I miss the most is my seventeen-year-old ghost, wide-eyed and laughing, staying up too late reading poetry and burning contraband candles in the dorm. That girl knew some things about magic–things it’s been all too easy to forget in the adult world of bills, parenting, mortgage payments, leaking pipes, totaled cars, obligations. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s any room left for magic.
When I think of my college-freshman self, I miss that magic. For a long time I feared it was just gone. Spontaneity, wonder, riotous laughter–where is the room for those things amidst schedules and groceries and appointments? For a long time, I haven’t known what to do about it.
Then, at some point this summer (finally), I had an epiphany. The magic is there if I make it.
So I have set out to make magic.
Grown-up magic is different, maybe, from kid-magic. Well, maybe not always, but a lot of the time, and this is what I didn’t realize. As half-wild children with unblinking eyes and unflinching fingers and dirty feet and tangled hair, we drink in magic, absorb it through every pore, because the world is chock-full of it. It is air, rain, sunlight, the silvered sheen of the moon.
Some time before last Christmas, Thing 1 realized that Santa is parents. Thanks to a post shared by a friend, I was prepared. I told him that once he figured this out, it meant he was ready to become a Santa. He was delighted. I was massively relieved. I had not, in fact, destroyed his entire childhood.
As I think about magic, I realize that Santa-magic is just one small category of grownup magic. The magic is not gone from the world–it just shifts, or rather, we shift with it. We can still be consumers of it, but now we also get to be its creators. We are freaking wizards, and this is kind of mind-blowing.
Last night, we had friends over to watch the Perseid meteor shower. As the sun set, the sky was clear in the gaps between clouds, the stars sharp and shining, Mars hovering just above the roof of the house. We talked, laughed, ate, drank, while kids ran rampant through the yard, blasting each other with Nerf guns, yelling, eating too much candy. We issued cans of shaving cream, as my parents and their best friends did when I was a kid, and they absolutely slathered themselves and each other in foam. Then they jumped in the pool, shrieking and diving for glow sticks, churning the surface of the water to a Barbasol-scented froth. They emerged well after dark, dripping and ravenous. They ran around again. They ate every possible s’more. They torched marshmallows that blazed like meteorites in the August night. We fussed at them not to catch each other on fire.
Then the clouds moved in, closing off the sky. We had to content ourselves with the light from the firepit, the bazillion glow sticks now strewn across the yard, the twinkle lights festooning the back porch, and the soft sheen of piles of shaving cream, white against the blackness. Of course we would have liked to have seen a rain of stars across the arc of the sky. But it also didn’t really matter. The magic was still there, because we put it there.
We never saw any meteors. But as our children blazed through the night, fueled by sugar and dripping pool water and shaving cream, the heavens, for a few moments, touched down.