I know that there are some things a father just cannot give a daughter (this haunts me), but of the things that I can, one of the most important to me is to inspire a sense of Magic. Acquainting Madi with Santa, the Easter Bunny, the tooth Fairy, leprechauns, sprites, and a host of others has been a huge delight for me. I know a time will come when these particular characters will begin to fade, and I am not concerned. In fact, I am dauntless. I will bear their torches straight through Middle School if I have to.
To me, Magic isn’t a trick. Magic isn’t a Disney princess. Magic isn’t a frivolous childish thing. A sense of Magic is a willingness to consider the unseen, an innate knowledge that something doesn’t have to be actual in order to be real. If we lose this willingness as we grow up, we lose our ability to recognize beauty. We will never notice the gossamer threads that hold our existence together and give it meaning; the invisible, unknowable things like chance, truth, trust, and love. It doesn’t matter if there is anything at the bottom of Loch Ness; that same quality of openness allows us to believe in ourselves, to imagine our own potential, and consider our own possibilities as real.
Granting this gift to a child takes good slight-of-hand and some fast thinking, but that’s the fun of it. As Daddy moments go, this was one of my best ever:
It was a rainy Sterling Renaissance Festival day. I don’t mind a rainy day in general, but a rainy day at Sterling is absolutely my least favorite kind of day. Some people like it, but to me it is nature taking a piss on my show, making it unnaturally long, cold and uncomfortable, and giving me hours of dullness punctuated with having to make decisions that are always the lesser of a variety of evils.
Madi’s Mom was dropping her off to me at the Festival on this day, and it was to be one of the first chances I had to just take her around the Faire myself. Since I had the option (and not the will) I did not get into costume that day. I wore my yellow raincoat as my sole source of comfort. Before we opened, I wandered bleakly through the Remembrance Shoppe, which is the place we keep all the decidedly un-renaissance souvenirs, trinkets and treats, thinking about my kid and the day we might have if it wasn’t raining.
It was Pirate Weekend, and before long Madi and I were sitting on wet benches at the Merchants Bend Stage listening to Empty Hats play delightful Celtic music. There were the usual dedicated fans, seasons pass holders mostly, and many dressed as pirates. Madi was four and not yet versed in the sanctity of a live stage performance, so she was busy chatting up the pirates in the second row, who also seemed inured to the sanctity of live performance and the indignant glances from the band. I noticed. I did my best, what the hell, it was raining.
I suppose that both parties could be forgiven, because for the pirates, Madi was impeccably cute, and for Madi, the pirates had gold coins. Those big plastic shinny gold doubloons were being passed about and Madi just had to have one. A kindly pirate gave her a few, and I used the exchange to settle her back onto her wet bench to listen to the show. It didn’t last long.
Next, she was all on about getting herself some candy. For some reason I will never know, she was insistent on me buying her a lollypop, not just any run of the mill sucker mind you, she wanted one of those big multi-colored ones made of the rolled candy set in a spiral. The old fashioned kind that are the size of a tea saucer. I kept telling her that it was too early for candy and that renaissance festivals did not sell that kind of candy, in fact they didn’t sell candy at all. She was desperate for it, kept whining on about it and was starting to make a scene, so after putting up the good fight, I caved.
In truth, I was dumbfounded at the very specific request. I was thrilled. I could not believe my luck. I had a daddy moment in the making that would never be forgotten. I told her that if she really wanted a big lollypop, I would have to make one by Magic.
“Really?? By magic?”
“Yup, but it’s not easy, and it’s going to cost you that gold doubloon.”
This was a no brainer for her, and she thrust the coin in my face and said, “Do it Daddy!” I took the coin, hefted it, rolled it through my fingers and told her it would take an incantation, then explained what an incantation was. She repeated after me, “Lollypop, lollypop, pretty and sweet, turn this coin into a big fat treat.” I then placed the coin very deliberately into my big raincoat pocket, so that she could see that it was in there. Palming coins is not my specialty, but I did it.
“Okay, reach in and see what you can feel.”
The look on her face was something between surprise and terror. She pulled out a big old-fashioned lollypop exactly like the one she described.
“OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD YOU DID IT!!”
“Oh my GOSH Madi, say gosh.”
“HE DID IT, HE DID IT, HE TURNED MY COIN INTO A MAGIC LOLLYPOP!!! HOW DID YOU DOOO THAT!!!”
Madi was truly beside herself. She took off, stopping at everyone she saw to exclaim that her dad turned her coin into this lollypop. I mean that quite literally, she ran from stranger to stranger, like a deranged candy toting Paul Revere. I had to chase her down. She spent the day showing anyone who would stop, her progressively smaller magic lollypop. The magic lollypop has been done many many times since, with a variety of gold coins.
Last week I was setting up a Halloween show on the festival site on another wet and miserable day. I had dug my old raincoat out of the trunk, the same one I wore years earlier. While walking the chilly site, I put my hand in my coat pocket and pulled out the original coin I had used.
Do I believe in magic?
What would YOU call it when a child asks for exactly the same thing her father saw in a gift shop that morning while thinking of her?
I call it Magic.