One of the nicest things about having small(-ish) children is my much-closer-than-the-years-previous
relationship to magic. Things like fairies, dragons, monsters, flying
etc etc. It's pleasant to go back there to the concerns I once had: how
do you summon a unicorn anyway? Are all dwarves bad? Are dragons
necessarily bad? My girls wrestle with these questions, particularly as
they often set one book against another. LeGuin's dragons or Rowling's?
Narnia's magic or fairies? Are fairies good, a la Disney, or tricky and
sometimes bad, per Peter Pan? And it was all well and good until one
day Chestnut came up to me with a hard look in her eye.
"I want you to tell me the truth. Is magic real?"
There are all sorts of tough questions one faces as a parent, far
beyond the "But how did the seed from Daddy end up inside your belly?"
variety. There's "Did they fly the planes into the twin towers on
purpose?" There's "Am I going to die someday?"
The magic one, though, felt significant to me.
Because the thing is, I don't know. I mean, I can weasel around with
the "Well, it depends on what you mean by magic. Some people would call
electric lights magic…" sort of line, or I could go for the "Well,
what do you think?" There's even, "What is real, really?" But none of
these felt like the answer I wanted to give. "Well," I said, and I
looked at her, and she looked at me like she was getting ready for bad
news. She elaborated, "A lot of the kids at school have been telling me
that magic isn't real."
I hate "a lot of the kids at school" sometimes.
But the thing is, I came up with something, and it's even something I
believe in, actually. So I am posting it here. And if you figure out
some way in which you think I'm totally wrong, I think I probably don't
want to hear (a terrible thing to say when putting something out there
in public, but true nonetheless).
What I said: "It's true that almost
everyone you ever meet, especially grownups, will tell you that magic
is not real. It is also true that I have never in my life seen a single
magical creature or thing: no fairies, unicorns, or anything like that.
But the thing is, it's a big, wide, amazing world, with millions of
amazing things in it, and the thing also is that no one really knows
what's in this world. And if they tell you they do, they're wrong. So
magic could exist, and I sort of think it does, even though I have never seen
And even as I write this down it starts to seem sort of lame and
hedging and all, but I have to tell you, it was an answer that
satisfied me, and satisfied her.
This was a while ago, and even now,
when Diana is reading a book about how to raise a dragon, and is
feeling kind of down because adventures never come her way, I think
about the fact that anything could really be true, and I am comforted.