How old were you when you were told that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy weren't real? What was your reaction? Was it right then that you stopped believing in things? That inevitable carpet sweep has put every child on their backs. And how do the parents respond to the tears and the whines of disappointment and heartbreak?
They tell us, "oh, grow up. You're not a little kid anymore."
Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. You were real pals right then. In what else is a kid supposed to stop believing? Love? The stork? Their dream of becoming a star athlete or a best selling novelist? Magic?
How many times have we been told--by others and by ourselves--that those things don't exist? Because no oneever could become J.K. Rowling or Steph Curry. They aren't real people.
I actually don't remember the time I first found out the deal about Santa and his elves. I grew up in a house in the city with no fireplace, let alone a chimney. I never considered exactly how Santa found his way to the Christmas Tree. Did he have keys? And the tooth fairy, was she little like Tinkerbell or tall and all grown up like a fairy godmother? And what did she do with the teeth? How did she get money to give to me? Did she go to the bank? It must have been a Fairy bank considering most banks close at five or six at night and seventy-six percent of teeth get pulled after dinner time. Or so I've been told.
I'm convinced that the Tooth Fairy, if she does exist, works as a human bartender and trades a few bucks from her tips for baby teeth after getting off from her late night shifts and shapeshifting into a fantastical creature the size of a floating dandelion.
People have the weirdest hobbies.
Logic gets in the way of things at an early age. I'm not upset at my Mom about it. But what happened after reality became more lucid, the imagination faded. I had this massive world of plush toys that had an epic story occur over the course of the summer before I started fourth grade. Next thing you know, I couldn't pick up my toys and pretend anymore.
To borrow a contemporary phrase, "$#!+ got real." Too real.
But what about in the movies? Did that eighteen-wheeler really explode on the highway during that chase? How did they film with that one actor as a kid and as an adult? It must have taken two decades to finish that movie. Oh my goodness, did Hans Gruber really fall from that building? He must have died hard...(rest in peace, Alan Rickman).
Surely, cartoons can't be real, either. So someone please explain how Bugs Bunny slam dunks with Michael Jordan on camera.
It doesn't stop there. There were many questions about religion in high school, and then politics after college. And surely, you can't believe everything you read on the internet or watch on the news.
So, what am I supposed to believe? Nothing?
When I re-read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I was twenty-five. Alice fell into a world where nothing was as it seemed, yet she could see what seemed with her own eyes. Yeah, it's a book, but her conviction was relentless. She held on to her own truths and beliefs, despite the tug and pull of fantasy and reality. The tug and pull that really should be a firm handshake complete with intertwined fingers and a friendly dose of spittage between the palms.
In The Recital, Edith doesn't know what to believe anymore. Her father disappears, she watches her mother lie about it to her younger sister; she has to keep quiet about a truth about her best friend that she learned from her best friend's mother; and she has to keep to herself about something that she knows no one would believe: she's a witch. A real one. She can make water move at will. She can heal, but only a little (like the cold her sister catches late in the fall). If there's anything we can learn from the characters we read in literature or the kids we are in our memories is that we ought to find something to believe in, and we should hold on to it tight. Or, we can open our hands and share it with someone who thinks the world has gone--to borrow another contemporary phrase--cray cray. We don't have to be evangelists about it, but if we can't put logic aside, for even just one moment, we may never get to experience magic. Magic like a perfect first kiss or a forty foot buzzer beating, game winning jump shot or surviving a fall with only a scar on the back of your hand. Or running into an old friend that you haven't seen in a while who you were just thinking of a few hours ago.
Magic exists, people. Hold out your hand, and believe.
Watch The Recital's Book Trailer: