Magic Under the Table
By Lyz Lenz
“Eat your food,” I snapped. My toddler started. “You ‘cared me!” She whined.
“I don’t care, eat your food.”
I’d been at the table for an hour, watching her pick at her food and then stare off into the distance, while singing a made-up song about rainbows. I was tired and trying to nurse the baby, who wiggled and fussed, kicking his legs against the chair. I wanted to sit on the couch. I wanted the day to be over. I wanted her to eat her food.
My daughter furrowed her little forehead, which was framed in a rainbow of headbands. She gripped her hands into a fist and made a throwing motion toward me. I flinched expecting a vegetable to hit my face.
“I ‘frowed magic at you,” she said. “So, you fly away and stop being grumpy.”
I tried to hide my smile. I didn’t know if telling people to fly away was a good precedent to set. But I wished I could fly away too.
“We can fly after dinner. But now, I need you to stay on earth and eat.”
At two, my daughter has discovered magic. Maybe it was the fairy tales we’ve been reading or her love of princesses. Maybe it was watching “Peter Pan” and then spending the next three weeks insisting she could fly, but my daughter tells me she has magic and I believe her.
She frequently runs through the house throwing imaginary pixie dust in the air. “We can fly!” She yells. “I make rainbows up in the sky!”
She sits on her blanket that she’s named “Blank Lee” and yells “magic away!” Then, tells me she’s on a rocket ship flying to the planet Saturn, because, “Nobody live dere.” Or I find her filling a backpack with blocks. “Dis my pixie dust,” she explains and spends the rest of the day lugging the backpack around with her—keeping her magic near.
I used to believe in magic too. I spent hours as a child climbing in trees looking for elves. I blew bubbles and convinced myself they were fairy eggs. “When they pop, the fairies hatch!” I told my little sister, who believed me. On family vacations, she and I spent hours building sandcastles for the fairies to dance in at night. I once thought I saw a toy leap from my brother’s bed into the closet. The image was so real and vivid I would often sneak into the room trying to catch the toys in their games unawares. I knew I was making it up. But I also knew that I might not be wrong.
Even when I was old enough to know magic couldn’t be true, I kept looking for it in dusty crawl spaces in the basement, underneath rose bushes in the neighbor’s garden, and along the deer path I found in the woods near school. When I was 13, I volunteered at the local library and learned about twin girls who disappeared 20 years ago when they were 16. I spent hours combing the paths near the river, convinced I would find them living in a house hidden by the brambles. They would be witches, who had run away because they were persecuted for their magic. They would let me join them and teach me how to disappear too.
I don’t know when I stopped looking for magic. Maybe it was when I learned where my dad had gone to on all those late nights at work. Maybe it was watching my husband grieve the loss of his father. Or maybe it was everything all together—the heavy burdens of life chipping away at my credulity. I didn’t even know I’d stopped looking for magic until my daughter found it hidden away in a bow on her dress.
“Dis my magic bow,” she told me. “It have all da magic.” She gripped the bow and mimed pulling something out. Then, she threw her hands in the air. “There da magic, mom!”
Having children has been the greatest challenge of my life. I constantly struggle not to tip over the precipice of patience and exhaustion—to nurture without growing weary, to correct without the corporal. I end most days, bone tired. As I walk through the house picking up the wreckage of our day—princess dolls, pirate ships, alphabet blocks— I find myself second guessing how I handled the tantrum over lunch and whether I yelled too loud when she put Blank Lee on top of the baby’s face. But there is the backpack full of “pixie dust.” I hang it on a hook near the butterfly wings and the crowns.
I find myself looking for the magic again. Except this time, I look in the pile of rainbow-colored headbands and in the pink pockets of a little sweater. I look under the table where my daughter tells me baby chickens live and I see crumbs. They’ve been here. I know I’m not right, but I’m also not entirely wrong.
The next day, during a bath, my daughter and I listen to the creaks and groans of our old plumbing as. “What dat?” She asks.
“I think its mermaids having a party in the pipes,” I say. “They are dancing.”
She nods, wide eyed. She believes me. I believe me too.
Lyz Lenz is a mother of two, writer, and lover of crime shows. Her writing has been published in the New York Time’s Motherlode, The Toast, The Hairpin, the Huffington Post and on her own site lyzlenz.com.