A magician came to the children’s school this week. The youngest two came home bursting with news of it. As I prepped dinner, Peter rehearsed an animated replay, complete with feigned Russian accent and waggling eyebrows. Eliza theorized on techniques. I chopped onions under the glow of their enthusiasm.
And, the thing is, I believe in magic. Not the hokey “alacazam” variety of magic. But, the “catch your breath at the wonder of it all” sort of magic. I’ve seen pure joy created out of thin air enough times to know that magic exists in the world. I’ve seen it made and I’ve made it myself. I swam in this kind of magic as a child, taking it utterly for granted, as only a child can.
My grandparent’s farm fairly crackled with magic for me. Everything was different on the farm, in the best possible way. It had nods toward the normal accoutrements of a grandparently abode: dishes of peppermint and butterscotch candies. But, it was nothing like the suburban grandparent homes of my friends. It was a place of watermelon juice dripping down my chest and unimaginable freedom of exploration. It was a universe in which sharp and dangerous things existed in spades but into which we ventured (mostly) unfettered by adult supervision. This was a world away from my padded suburban existence. It was wonder and magic and freedom all rolled into one.
We never lived in the small town where my grandparents are from, but we often lived only a few hours away. And we visited. Often. Sometimes we stayed for a few days or a week. Other times it was a day trip. It didn’t matter how long we stayed, every single visit ended in the same predictable fashion. As everyone piled into our wood paneled station wagon, I would stand on the hill outside and beg to stay. I was only two when this ritual began. I was never, ever ready to leave the farm. My mother seemed to understand this. Even though it may require another trip to retrieve me later, she often relented. I was gifted with a few halcyon weeks of unshared access to my grandparents, nearby cousins and the farm.
One day, we were deep into one such departure scene when my mother very sensibly observed that I couldn’t possibly stay because the only clothes I had with me were the ones on my back. Much as she tried to accommodate my farm time, there were, after all, certain practicalities to be observed.
I wasn’t dissuaded in the least. I slipped my tiny hand into my grandmother’s.
“Granny will make me some.”
When I said those words there wasn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that that is exactly what she would do. I didn’t have the adult complications of practicalities to dull that certainty. Still to this day I don’t have a proper understanding of all the work it took just to keep everything going on their farm. But, I do know the added effort it is to have a child to care for. And none of that covers the complications of whipping up a wardrobe for said child.
Granny, a magician who has never been one to be underestimated said, “If my granddaughter wants to stay with me, I guess she won’t go naked.”
How is a mother (and a daughter) to argue with that? I need not tell you I got to stay.
And then my grandmother began to make her magic. To this day I’m not sure where the material came from. My grandmother didn’t have a “stash” in the way we use the term today—yards and yards of fabric bought from the store. But, she always had odds and ends that could be turned into something useful. A dress with a worn out hem or an old sheet. I suppose she may have run into town for some fabric as well. None of those details remain for me. I only know that she cobbled together some fabric, drafted a simple top and shorts pattern, and whipped up a week’s worth of clothes for me.
Magic that leads to magic. Stitches that make for dirty feet squishing in the freshly plowed fields. Snipping of seams so that kittens could be chased while milk squirted steadily into metal pails. How can I tell you all that those quick seams created? There was a spring to drink from, wild blackberry bushes to discover and a hay barn to explore.
Every few days, we gathered all these clothes laden with magic and washed them in the old tub washing machine. It agitated loudly in the back room, walking across the floor, making slow progress toward the door of the cellar. Once it quieted, we placed each item between the two rubber cylinders at the top of the machine. My job was to crank the handle round and round, literally, running them through the ringer. Water slushed back into the tub, smelling tangy of iron and chemically of soap.
Those clothes would accompany me back to my routine world of playgrounds and bike rides. I would wear them until they were too small and my younger sisters would inherit them.
But, this isn’t a story about pants and shirts. You’re following me, aren’t you? It is a story of a magician and the magic she made. My grandmother created something out of nothing. She pulled a couple of weeks together out of her own ingenuity. I knew, in my tiny heart, that she could. And, that she would.
Because making is magic.