“Mama, today is the day that Sonia is going to show me the way to the magic portal.”
R and I were walking to school last week, days before my small boy celebrated his seventh birthday, when he brought up an event he was anxiously awaiting. His classmate, an adorable little redheaded girl, had promised she would show him this portal. He had mentioned it several times over the previous few days—a clear sign of his excitement.
“What’s through the portal?” I inquired.
“A magical world,” he replied confidently.
“I hope you won’t stay there for too long,” I said. “I’ll miss you.”
“I won’t,” he answered. “You can get stuck if you go when there’s a tornado, but I won’t do that.”
I nodded and squeezed his hand, even though I had no idea what the tornado meant.
“Mama,” he said, looking up at me. “Mama, I believe in magic.”
It’s moments like this that I understand the phrase “my heart swelled.” Because it did. Truly. I thought it might burst through my chest, in fact. The expression on his face was a mix of hope, excitement, and innocence. In other words, all of the beautiful qualities that parents want their children to have at this age.
“That’s good,” I said. “There are many things in life that are magical and wonderful.”
We arrived at school. He let go of my hand and ran onto the playground, looking for an empty swing, the prize for early arrivals. I helped G, his sister, get settled on her swing, and then I noticed him back on the path, hopping from foot to foot.
“Mama, do you see Sonia?”
“No, honey, maybe she’s not here yet.”
His face scrunched up with anticipation.
More children arrived on the playground, but R didn’t spy Sonia. Soon the bell rang, and the school day began. I kissed R and G good-bye, wondering about the magical world Sonia had in store for my son. I concluded that, for my first grader, the magical world was unlikely to be a euphemism for that anything that would cause me to worry. (Had he been a teenager, I may have though differently.)
“I believe in magic.”
I thought about his statement all day. How powerful his belief was. And, how fragile. When would he no longer believe? Or, would he hold onto that feeling for many years to come? Perhaps, as we age, we see magic differently. No longer do we pine for the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, choosing to find wonder differently: in a loved one or in a stunning sunset, in a chance meeting or in unexpected good news, in a sparkling waterfall or in a baby’s first steps.
Later that day, when we reunited after full days of school and work, I asked R how the trip through the magic portal had gone.
“Oh, it was nothing,” he explained, his eyes downcast. “She just had me walk around a tree 22 times. And nothing happened!”
I bit my lip from laughing. This was likely not the last time he’d misunderstand a girl.
He shrugged and went off to play with his Legos, not mentioning it again.
For him, magic may be around the tree, but for me, R and his sister are my magic, my wonder. It’s times like the passing of their birthdays when I am struck by that realization and try to pause to remember it, keeping in mind that I, too, believe in magic.