I remember what a thrill it used to be to run my fingers along whatever wall or fence was standing there to guide me down the sidewalk. I remember how important it was to touch it, to let my fingers experience the roughness for as long as possible.
I remember the sweatshirt I wore for many days and weeks and months, helping me feel safe and comfortable. The tiger’s sparkly stripes and ruby red eyes against the black fabric drew me like a magpie and I didn’t want to let go, even for one washing, even when I could smell the days and weeks myself, and it made me crinkle my nose.
I remember the fear of new food and certain flavors. The dread of having to take another bite and the hope that maybe it would disappear if I spread it thin enough on my plate, kept me at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours after everyone else had left. And maybe it was hours. I don’t remember that.
I remember the feeling that the special day would never come. The day when I would finally start school, or we would go to my grandparent’s, or it would be my birthday, or a friend’s party. A week seemed eternal, a day could be too long when something that exciting was on the other side of it.
I remember, when I was a little older, the aura of possibility that hung over ring of the phone, every knock at the door, every visit from the mailman. It could be the day I was discovered, that I would be told of an exciting opportunity, or a secret love, or maybe just that I was amazing in ways that I had yet to discover myself.
I remember the favorite outfits I would wear on special occasions. Like, to take a test. Or to attend a school dance. There was a power within those shirts that I was sure made me sparkle and shine as I had never done before.
I remember the little knick-knacks that I endowed with meaning, life and personality. My special beaded lizard, the string bracelets I made myself, the dolls and bears that sat on my bed and sometimes came to face new situations with me.
But I grew up and the magic faded. The sensation of my fingers running along brick walls or bouncing on chain-link fences is tempered by my knowledge of germs and scrapes, and by my need to use my hands for other things. I learned that I can eat just about any food and most of it — even the stroganoff that kept me sitting at the table long after the dishes were done — is actually pretty good. I haven’t had a favorite shirt or special outfit in years. My clothes are functional, and as long as they function, I try not to think about how I wasn’t excited to wear them today. When the phone rings, I have no delusions about un-thought-of possibilities. It’s generally a reminder to take my kids to the doctor, a family member calling to say hi. A knock at the door means a package I ordered has arrived. The most exciting thing I get in the mail is the next issue of Runner’s World. The possibility of my life suddenly changing (for the better) has been moderated by the years of realizing that almost nothing changes that quickly.
Still, I remember the magic. Those hopes and expectations pop out every now and then. The need for something new or something comforting is more subtle but still present. In fact, in some ways, the I can feel that magic growing stronger these days. Like when Manchild wants to wear the same sweatshirt again and again and again, or when Squish can’t sleep without his hands full of cars, or when they go ballistic at the sound of our door being buzzed. I hear it in the way Manchild tells me that he just can’t wait two more days to go on the train or the ferry or the plane. I see it in the way they run towards the broken slab of sidewalk on our block that forms a perfect (6 inch) ledge for jumping off. And I can feel the novelty of the bricks under my fingers when they run their hands across it, even though my own hands are full of theirs.
I sympathize, I empathize, I try not to get in the way or kill the joy of the little surprises and little comforts and little excitements.
Because so much of my magic these days is letting them have theirs.