When Life Was Still Magical

I sat at the kitchen table, glancing from two very gnarled necklace chains to your very anxious face. How the two chains had become knotted will forever remain a mystery, because you, my dear Vincent, would NEVER knot any of my jewelry, especially when I specifically told you to “Please be careful with these, Honey. They knot very easily.” Your eager, curious fingers would NEVER twist the chains, tug on the pendants, or swing the necklaces around like sterling silver lassos. If I would just let you wear them for a few minutes (cue the pleading expression and side-to-side sway) you would guard them with your little life.

And so, as you stood there with a dark cloud veiling your blue eyes, guiltily holding out the mangled jewelry, I kissed your nose and pretended to believe you when you whispered, “I broke them Mommy. I don’t know how. I’m so very sorry.”

I sent you off to build a Lego tower while I set to work, two fingers on one hand gently massaging the knots to loosen them while I started dinner with the other hand. Stir the sauce, twist the chain….stir the sauce, twist the chain…stir the chain, twist the sauce…

“Mommy?” You were standing next to me like a little boy waiting to hear the fate of his puppy with a broken paw. “Did you fix them?” you asked hopefully.

“Not yet, Baby, but almost.” I was lying. They looked like that imaginary puppy had chewed them up and spit them out.

Undaunted, I grabbed a toothpick from the cabinet and set to work with the first tiny knot. While I pulled, prodded, squeezed and sweet-talked it, I remembered learning this “trick” from my father, many, many years ago.

“Just have patience, Monkey. No knot is too hard to unknot. You just have to take one tiny piece at a time.”

“Wow, you fixed it!” 4-year old me would exclaim giddily as he transformed a rat’s nest back into a necklace.

“Of course I did,” he would say with his Jolly Green Giant voice and beaming smile.

Pull, prod, turn- one knot gone.

“Could you fix the toaster?”

“Of course, Monkey!”

Squeeze, twist, toothpick…two knots gone.

“What if the coffee pot broke, Daddy?”

“I could fix that too. No problem.”

Squeeze, twist, pull…

I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in my Little Mermaid nightgown, watching intently as his thumb and forefinger started to work the knot.  He had big, strong hands that were built to fix big, heavy things. His powerful forearms turned wrenches, lifted tires and popped hoods from dawn til dusk every day.  But after all those hours spent coaxing enormous, ailing machines back to life, Dad was never too tired to fix a doll’s leg, re-spool a cassette tape (we can talk about what they are later), or re-glue the one eye that kept popping off one of my teddy bears.

I loved to watch him work. He reminded me of Santa Claus, (except much, much cooler). Santa had those dainty white gloves and that fluffy coat, but MY dad had big, strong, cracked, motor oil-stained fingers and a blue work shirt that said “John” in the corner. That impeccably- starched work shirt told the story of his entire day- every stain and spill told a tale of someone’s only mode of transportation, their only way to get to the store or pick up the kids- and MY dad was in charge of fixing them all. People nervously handed him the keys to one of their most important possessions because they trusted that he could make those big, old machines live a little longer. My dad was magical.

I always beamed with pride when I saw him sitting patiently at the kitchen table, replacing batteries, strengthening chair legs, untangling phone cords (phones used to have cords and be attached to walls…we’ll go over that when we go over cassette tapes)- you name it, my dad could do it.

“Mommy?”

You were shuffling nervously next to my chair, your eyes searching the necklace for imperfections. I pulled my mind back from 1987 and triumphantly showed you the two fully-restored necklaces. You beamed at me with all the joy your little cheeks could hold.

“Mommy you did it! You’re the best! You can fix anything!”

I wandered back to the little girl in her mermaid nightgown for a second.

“Daddy, you can really fix anything?”

“Yup, Monkey. Anything.”

“What if the Statue of Liberty broke? Could you fix that?”

“Yup.”

It was my turn. I was magical to someone now.

The way I could wiggle my fingers and say “turn green!” and somehow, the traffic light would inexplicably turn from red to green- that drove you wild.

That amazing talent I had for putting a tiny plastic card in the big machine at the bank and making money appear? That one still had you stumped.

I could cool off soup by pushing the ice cube button on the fridge; fix broken racecars; and mend all of your boo-boos with a healing kiss and a tousle of your hair. I was absolutely invincible in your eyes. Suddenly I knew how my dad must have felt as I quietly orbited around him in my ruffled socks, watching him change a clock battery like he was performing brain surgery.

I wished I could go back, just for a second. But I guess you never really can.

Then again…as I sat at a traffic light this morning, I heard you whispering from the backseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw you wiggling your fingers and commanding, “Whooosh….whoooosh…light, turn green!!!”

And it turned green.

“Mommy, I’m magical too!” you exclaimed proudly.

Well…maybe if I can’t go back myself, I’ll enjoy the ride with you, my little Monkey.

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