I believe in magic. I always have and I’m quite sure I always will. I like to believe that there are fairies out there somewhere and that they just haven’t revealed themselves to me yet. I like to believe that there are enchanted forests and mystical creatures and that my letter from Hogwarts just got lost in the mail. I like to believe I have an otherwordly connection with woodland creatures when sparrows and starlings and chipmunks take food from my hands. In those glorious, fleeting moments where everything feels right and beautiful and you catch yourself smiling just because, I like to believe I was hit with a well-placed spell.
Like the way I blow bubbles in bars and carry lollipops around in my handbag, I don’t do it to be cutesy or eccentric. I do it because it makes me happy. Because it’s my way of looking at the world with childlike wonder.
The outer walls of Florence are riddled with small wooden doors, a foot high and six inches wide. In medieval times, they were used by vendors to sell bottles or cups of wine to the public. As the nanny of a four-year-old little boy, I have made them into fairy doors. I tell Diego that behind those doors the fairies live splendidly. That if we knock and shout “I believe in you!” each time we pass, maybe they will come to visit us one day. I place glitter and little notes addressed to him on their sills and he describes to me in great detail what he thinks they may look like. Together we live our afternoons in a magical little world where fairies and unicorns and mermaids abound and we can both fly if the other one would just close their eyes.
Yesterday when I picked him up from school, I didn’t get the warm welcome I usually do. Where he usually runs into my arms and kisses me and tells me all about his day, today he merely walked up slowly, handed me his backpack and headed for the door. He had had a bad day. I suggested that we cheer him up by getting a gelato and watching his favorite mime perform in the piazza. He said “No use. Once you have a bad day, it’s just bad.” No! I told him. That’s not true. Things can always turn around. You’ve just got to find the magic!
He wasn’t buying it.
Determined to make my starry-eyed little friend starry-eyed again, I pulled out all the stops. We got ice cream cones together and I told him silly jokes. I blew raspberries on his belly and raced him from street sign to street sign. I showed him a brand new fairy door I found and we shouted to our friends and giggled and held hands. When we finally arrived at his house we hugged my legs and said, “Bad days can turn around. Like magic!”
Once you remember to believe it’s there, suddenly it is.
I had a submersive reminder a few weeks ago at my good friend Grey’s 41st birthday party. We arrived at his house, one I’ve been to quite a few times before, and settled in to the colorful kitchen. We were surrounded by mannequin heads and handmade art. There were trinkets and strange instruments and toys on every available surface. Broken bits of mirror were stuck in a pattern on the wall with an empty frame skewed artfully over them. He had created the illusion that the mirror was escaping the frame’s confinement. Evidence of his career as a professional mime and performance artist were everywhere. His home was the embodiment of his fantastically whimsical inner workings.
We sat in the funhouse and ate and exchanged pleasantries, introducing ourselves, attempting to speak whichever languages would allow us to best communicate with one another. Suddenly two of his friends arrived, dancing through the door with sombreros on. One was strumming a guitar, the other shaking maracas. Together they harmonized, singing a beautiful traditional Mexican song in honor of our dear friend’s birthday. As they sang, he ran around the room, giggling happily, indicating that we should all put our arms around each other. And so we did. We stood and swayed together to his birthday song. When they had finished he decided to run away with the change in pace. He turned on flashing colored lights and strobes and played dance music. While we all stood in the multicolor glow, smiling strangely at one another, he scooted into his room and quickly reappeared with a suitcase. He popped it open revealing a flamboyant display of wigs and sunglasses and silly masks. We all took a costume and put it on and began to dance.
We danced and sang and formed a conga line 15 people long in a teeny tiny kitchen. We were all children, giggling at each other’s silly glasses and wild wigs and magnificent freeness.
That evening, and every other moment he exists, Grey creates an effervescent environment of uninhibition. His life is a demonstration of how to be candidly and beautifully unreserved. He has the soul of a child looking at the world with wonder and innocence and his life’s work is bringing everyone to that magical place with him.
As adults we are told to be realistic. When we aren’t realistic we’re told to grow up. At some point we’re supposed to let it go of the magic. Or maybe we just forget to believe in it or it’s beaten out of us. But remaining childlike should be seen as a victory, not a fault.
Where’s the fault in belly laughing so hard you snort? In rolling around on the floor with a stranger’s dog and using your imagination and squealing with delight about candy and cake and ice cream? In choosing to skip down the street rather than walk and blowing bubbles out your second story window so passersby think they’re walking through a mysterious bubbleland. Where’s the fault in so desperately wanting your favorite books to be real that sometimes you just pretend they are? In loving Disney movies and juice boxes? In seeing fairy doors instead of former wine cellars?
If you can work everyday to support yourself, pay your bills and deal with heartbreak, disappointment and global and societal tragedy. If you can grin and bear monotony and endure frantic business. If you can successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully manage adulthood and still find time to feed the inner child, consider yourself glitteringly and victoriously magical.