Do You Believe in Magic

Do You Believe in Magic

WO Believe in Magic Art(in a young girl’s heart)

By Galit Breen

I sit by the light of the moon, the lamp and the television screen, as my husband sleeps. My knees are drawn to my chest, I lean against them, pen in hand. My eyes are bleary and my alarm will sound all too soon, but this I want to do.

Swirly letters, print that I hope looks nothing like my own, fill the page. Satisfied, I roll the thin paper between my fingertips, walk down the hall in bare feet, and slip the note and one cool coin beneath my daughter’s pillow.

Chloe, my seven-year-old, just lost her first tooth. She’s waited (somewhat) patiently as her classmates have lost one tooth after another, stories of special boxes and tooth fairies and even braces filling their chapters.

My husband, Jason, and I weren’t surprised about her wait time. Chloe got her first tooth at 18 months. It’s just unheard of! Her pediatrician, who I love, kept saying throughout her well check. It’s just unheard of! I reported to my husband while Chloe gummed raspberries and peas and yogurt between us. He nodded in “appreciation” of my worries, threw a She’s fine my way, and passed her tiny, sliced pieces of his meat.

And she was fine. Of course she was. Seven years later when her smile remained whole while her friends’ tooth count dropped by the day, “we” knew how to tow the She’s fine line. But yesterday, when she came home from school, coveted treasure box in hand, gaping smile proud, she looked instantly older and heartachingly proud and I was more than ready to play my tooth fairy roll.

In the morning, she came downstairs with her trademark steps—confident in the way middle children have to be, blazing their own paths between those of their siblings, and quick because she’s used to taking the kinds of steps necessary to keep up with the longer legs she walks beside.

I knew it was her without looking up, but when my eyes met hers—that match mine in shade and intensity and fierce – I saw what I was looking for. They were absolutely lit. She grasped her tooth fairy magic between thankfully still small fingers and held it my way. An offering.

We sat together on the yellow couch, toes tucked beneath us, and read the note, palmed the coin. The sun was just rising and the sky blazed in watercolor shades of red and purple and even a tinge of green. She leaned against me in the way that I love and I breathed in the scent of her hair. Strawberries, childhood.

Her older sister Kayli came downstairs just a few minutes later and sat by my side. “Look, Kay!” Chloe said, giving her a view of the magic she held. Bookended by my two I wondered how this back and forth between sisters would work.

At nine-years-old, I get the feeling that Kayli knows more than she lets on. She keeps many of her thoughts and feelings and opinions tucked into the crevices of her heart, for her eyes only. But every once in awhile she shares a glimpse of that heart; her own offering.

“Look, Kay!” Chloe says again pushing the note and the coin toward her sister. Kayli gets up and makes her way to Chloe’s other side so now Chloe sits in the middle. This feels appropriate. They lean over the note and read it together. Knees and shoulders touching, locks and voices threading in the way that sisters do.

“You have a great tooth fairy,” Kayli announces with authority. A smile plays on my lips as I look up expecting to see their heads still nestled close. But Kayli’s eyes are on mine. They’re impossibly big and brown and where Chloe’s match mine, Kayli’s mirror Jason’s.

I still write tooth fairy notes to Kayli. Its never occurred to me not to sprinkle that kind of magic into her childhood, but for the first time I wonder if she knows, what she thinks, if she’s actually playing into my glitter instead of the other way around.

The morning needs starting, so we do. Breakfast is punctuated by folders that need packing and library books that need finding and a puggle that needs feeding.

The girls are ready and out the door in what feels like just a few minutes, and are home after a full school day in what seems like just a few minutes after that.

Chloe is in a mood. Her lift has always been as high as her fall. As a baby her laugh was always the deepest and most infectious and her cry always the loudest and most intense. Her feelings fill rooms.

So the rest of us try to maneuver around her, biding time, willing her to rest, to take a break, to give us a break. Jason is bringing home take-out and I cross my mothering fingers that she can make it long enough so we can have this treat as a family. But she just can’t—the ups and downs of the day, the late night and the early morning were just too much for her and somewhere between six and seven o’clock she has struck one too many chords and has been sent to bed.

She showers, wraps herself in lotion and fleece and slippers, the same creature comforts I would have chosen for myself. Seeing she’s on her way to okay, I head downstairs to make her a sandwich.  I wonder what my own footsteps sound like to my kids, if they know it’s me without looking up.

As I round the corner into the kitchen, Kayli sits at the counter. Legs crossed, lean body curved, pen in hand. The way that her head is tilted, her almond locks hit the counter. Her eyes are focused, her lips are set. She’s lovely.

“What are you doing?” I ask, running my fingers through her strands that glitter by this evening light.

She looks up, meets my eyes in the jolting way for the second time that day—a smile playing on her lips this time—and pushes her writing toward me.

On a small, thin piece of paper she’s written, “Here’s a sandwich, tomorrow will be a better day. Love, The Peanut Butter and Jelly Fairy” in slanted, curvy, and swirly print that looks an awful lot like my tooth fairy writing. She’s dotted each “i” with a heart. Paused, I look up and take in my girl, note this mark of her tween-ness.

I know this is a turning moment between us and I brace myself for what I think I’m about to feel—sadness, wistfulness, a need to grab onto the fleetingness of it all. But that’s not what happens.

I realize with an inhale that she’s already taken the first steps away from childhood that I’ve been holding my breath for. And with an exhale, I see how beautiful this stage looks on her.

Knowing so much more than she’s let on. Maneuvering between the one being taken care of to the one doing the caring. Using what she knows to show love, to create magic, to be graceful.

“Oh, Kay,” I say, “That was really nice of you.” And not really knowing what else to add, I step aside. Kayli makes her sister a sandwich, calls her downstairs, and, once again, my two share magic while I watch.

So this is the wonder of her tweenness—of being just one step away from the magic of childhood that she still gets and loves and feels the fun and the whimsy and is just looking for her own way to be a part of it.

And as long as I can keep finding these moments to step aside and let her in, neither one of us have lost childhood, instead we’re both tiptoeing into a newfound relationship that is magical in its own right.

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. Galit is a contributing writer to Soleil Moon Frye’s Moonfrye, the Huffington Post, SheKnows’s, allParenting, EverydayFamily, and Mamalode Magazine. Galit blogs at These Little Waves and may or may not work for dark chocolate.

See more of Galit Breen’s work in This is Childhood: Book & Journal  – Available Now.

Photo credit: Nicole Spangler Photogrpahy

This is Four: Galit Breen

This is Four: Galit Breen

Kris Woll interviews Galit Breen, a contributing writer in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood:

GALIT2What was your inspiration for writing this piece?  Have you written other things about this age/stage? 

I wrote this piece when my youngest of three was right smack in the middle of this age. It felt new with him but strikingly old to me all at the same time. I loved learning how the moments—and my reactions to them—told his story as a 4-year-old, my story as a mom, and our story as a family.

What is it about age 4 you liked the most? The least?

I love the wild abandon and creativity of 4-year-olds. And the STRONG opinions and reactions— while fun, adorable, and story-worthy in retrospect—feel challenging to me in the moment.

What do you wish you knew before you had a 4-year-old, or what advice do you wish you could tell your former self about mothering at that particular stage?

I would tell myself—again and again—that my children’s true personalities are starting to form and to embrace that. Because not only is it lovely to get to watch it happen, but it’s also the very first chance to send them the message that I love them exactly how they are!

What other age/stage in this collection (which explores 1-10) is one you would like to explore more—or do you often find yourself turning to—in your writing?  

I think about Lindsay’s piece—age 10—the most often. It’s a stage I haven’t reached yet, but am about to, and I love having Lindsay’s chartered-territory words to turn to for comfort and inspiration as my own daughter and I tiptoe into double digits.

How do writing and mothering fit together for you?  How has that fit over time?

I started writing about motherhood when my youngest was an infant. It’s where I found my voice and my heart and learned how to use both within my words. I’m grateful for the two and see them as perfectly interlaced.

What is your advice to other mother writers?

My best advice is to write with equal parts honesty and kindness and with the crystal clear insight that your children will read your words one day so be purposeful and mindful about what and how you write about them.

What do you hope readers will take with them from your piece?  From this collection?

I hope that readers feel with each fiber of their being that every single stage of mothering and childhood has golden glints to it. So if you’re in a harder moment that’s stretching you more than feels comfortable—remember that it will pass. And if you’re feeling the bittersweetness of growth and change, remember that there are (many, many) more gems to come.

Photo credit: Nicole Spangler Photography

Read Galit’s “This is Four” essay in This is Childhood, a book and journal about the first years of childhood.

All About Me

All About Me

By Galit Breen

BrainChildMagazine-GalitBreen-AllAboutMe“One more,” he says, sleep still wrapped around his eyes, his cheeks, his voice.

“Okay,” I say, never being one to resist a child asking to read another book. I glide my thumb along the bottom edge and slip the book open. It creases in a way that is satisfying to this former teacher.

I used to sit in front of my classrooms of students in this exact same way. Thumb beneath page, smile lifting cheeks, eyes searching for one answer: Will they dive into this story?

Ten years ago I traded in my teacher voice for my mothering one. I’ve been told they’re eerily similar. And I’ve never—truly, not ever—regretted this decision. I do, however, have an undeniable soft spot for school projects and chapter books, hand written stories and the chubby fingers wrapped around the sharpened pencils that write them.

Brody has his first school homework assignment due this week; it’s an “All About Me” poster. And like many teachers before me, I’m a horrid student and we’ve left it until (almost) the last minute. So brushing his too-long golden locks out of his hazel eyes that match mine, I add, “And then we’ll do your poster.” He smiles. This makes me almost giddy.

We settle into the story sitting on the yellow couch, our heads tilting toward each other, his elbow on my knee. Our puggle, Louie, is curled on my toes. These two are my, very comfortable, bookends.

My mind quickly checks the next hour off of our list. Brody and I will work on his project while his sisters, Kayli and Chloe, play outside. I’ll ask him the questions and help him list his favorite and his not-so-favorite things. We’ll share the pen, I’ll watch him print.

I used to love this stage as a teacher, when children are on the cusp of making sense of letters and sounds and the magic that turns their words and into stories. With something that can only be described as a pang, I suddenly realize this is my last child that I’ll watch learn how to write, that I’ll teach how to curve tiny fingers fingertip-to-fingertip and stretch each sound out until it becomes so very clear to them.

I brush those locks away one more time as we close the book. “My poster!” He breathes. I smile and nod his way.  He runs to the table and unrolls the poster that’s almost as big as him. It curls back up and he laughs from the deepest part of his belly. I pause to memorize this giggle, tuck it away for a cooler time.

Just as we begin carving out a new place made just for two, the girls come back inside. Their voices fill the space from one room to the other. They have stories to tell, adventures to share. Their cheeks and their noses and even their foreheads are pink tinged. They look like they’ve been kissed with childhood.

Their words braid over each other in a loud, magnetic way. Brody is stilled at the table. He’s sitting barefoot, knees tucked beneath him, tiny toes peeking out from behind. His eyes are wide; he’s taking them in. I’m awed by their sibling-ness.

When he can’t possibly hold his news in any longer, “We’re doing my poster!” escapes between his thin lips.

The girls’ eyes scan the table. The magazines piled high to his side, the pencils, the crayons, the tiny scissors and the full bottles of glue scattered in front of him, and that poster that refuses to stay flat.

Their cheeks raise and their eyes light in the exact same way mine always did at the prospect of a project, at the idea of teaching.

And with a speed that I can’t imagine ever owning as my own, they slip out of their jackets and sneakers and into the two spots by his sides. I lean against the counter behind them, arms crossed at my chest and watch as he looks to them with—once again—wide eyes.

“What’s your favorite color?” One asks. He answers and they help him write, placing their fingertips together, showing him how to stretch his words, listen for the sounds, write the letters that he already knows.

What I feel in this moment is a little bit hard to place my own fingertips on.

That small pang of last child is still there. And at second blush, if I’m being honest, so is the feeling of this is my moment to share in.

But all of this is, of course, painted over with the brightest strokes, by the real magic in the room. The way he turns to them and the way they want him to, the way they teach him and the way he learns from them.

I remember being told how very magical a sibling relationship can be. Being an only child, I had no idea what to expect, what to look for, what to teach. But as it turns out, all I really needed to do was stand back and watch this—all of this—unfold.

The girls help Brody finish his entire poster. They flip through magazine pages together and find his likes—balloons, tootsie rolls, puppies—and his dislikes—asparagus, fires, brushing his teeth. They bite their lips and don’t say a word when he writes his B backwards or his name in the wrong spot.

And when his poster is complete, they stand in front of me and practice sharing it; my uneven HeartStaircase. Brody stands between his sisters, his own comfortable bookends, with a wide smile and lit eyes.

This moment didn’t go the way that I planned it to, but it worked out exactly as it should have, didn’t it? It was a truly perfect way for my third child’s “All About Me” story to unfold.

Galit Breen is a Minnesota writer. Galit is a contributing writer to Soleil Moon Frye’s Moonfrye, the Huffington Post, SheKnows’s, allParenting, EverydayFamily, and Mamalode Magazine. Galit blogs at These Little Waves and may or may not work for dark chocolate.