Pretty damn magical.


{photo credit here

Sometimes memories become so distant that you start to wonder if they were ever real in the first place. Was it really as magical as I remember? Did it really happen? When it comes to my early childhood, I no longer trust my own memory.

Many memories of my childhood seem idyllic. Unreal. The cynicism of adulthood has made me question the magic. My brain whispers that something that beautiful, that magical, couldn’t possibly be true. Surely my little 7-year-old mind made it up, but my little 7-year-old mind wasn’t that creative. I could never have thought up something this magical on my own.

And yet, maybe I did.

I was in the 2nd or maybe the 3rd grade. I’m not sure exactly what that day involved, there is nothing else about the day that I remember. Beyond the back of our school, beyond the playground, beyond the field was a grove of trees, trees that I’m sure look much smaller today than they did then. Through the trees lay a small park named for my great-grandfather. Beyond the school and the trees and the park, next to a small creek was my home. My grandparents lived one block to the west. My aunt, uncle, and cousins one block to the east. My life was in a 1-mile radius. A normal life that was simple, easy, protected.

I spent plenty of time at that park, playing amongst those trees. I have quiet memories there; memories with no sound like old silent movies. Memories of metal jungle gyms and tornado slides and best friends from the neighborhood. This particular memory, my magic-filled memory, included my classmates. Kids named Mitchell, Issac, Amy, Angela, Todd, and Jodi. Kids that I haven’t seen in over 30 years and wonder if they have this memory too.

Is it as real to them as it is to me? Do they remember?

I don’t recall walking through the field or stepping into the grove of trees, but our teacher took us out there with clear intention. We stood amongst the trees, my classmates and I, all of us looking up into the afternoon sunlight streaming through the trees. Everywhere around us, on the trees and the leaves and in the air were thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies, the trees absolutely covered. They were migrating south I’m assuming, taking a rest in our part of the world before heading on their way to a fabulous winter vacation south of the border. For a little girl around 7 years old, thousands and thousands of butterflies covering everything around you is pretty damn magical. A memory that you never forget.

It wasn’t long after seeing those butterflies that I left that school, that park, and that home, leaving me with little magic to hold onto. Parents divorcing and being moved away from your simple, easy and protected life tends to do that. My memories of living there are varied and vast–some painful, some joyful, even idyllic at times–but nothing compares to or can compete with my memory of the monarchs.

I believe in the magic of the memory. I believe that those butterflies were real, that God and Mother Nature were in that moment together, giving us a small taste of the beauty and wonder and magic that exists in the world. A perfect moment when everything was okay.

My youngest keeps asking me if Santa is real. Once or twice a week I get the question. He presses and looks at me hard, waiting for me to confess. Instead, I respond with my own question:

“Do you believe in the magic of Santa?”

To which he replies, “Yes.”

“Well then, that’s all that really matters. Right?”

I never asked my mother if Santa was real. I wanted the magic. I needed it in my life. Santa and monarch butterflies were a way to believe that amongst heartache, there was still magic in the world. I still need magic in my life.

If my memory of the monarchs wasn’t real, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.

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