It would be a perfect moment: one of those Normal Rockwell times, capturing the wide-eyed wonder of young children entranced – not so much by an object – but by the concept beyond it. I looked over the long wands, considering each.
The first would go to Elam, the youngest at three. He claimed four fingers of age, but his pretty young mother corrected his math. “You’ll be four next week, on your birthday!” His wand I had stained brown and glued a blue plastic jewel into the end of the handle. A small feather protruded from the joint where the shaft of the wand met the handle. “You have to use your imagination,” I would tell him. He would begin waving it at the sky, moving clouds hither and yon with the windless power of a newfound skill.
The second wand would go to Silas, the elder at the ripe age of six. He was the more active, following his impulses like a flitting butterfly. Bigger, he was also inclined to overwhelm his little brother. For Silas, I had the Backfire Wand. From the front, the wand extended thirteen inches. From the back of the handle, a short bit of wand protruded two inches. I would explain to him: “You can cast a spell from the front of the wand, but the same spell will be cast on you, the magician!” In this way, he would be less inclined to turn his sibling into a frog, balancing the inequity of age.
For the piéce de résistance, I had a third wand with a pink jewel in the handle. “This must be given to a Birthday Girl, and can only be presented by two strong boys who themselves have magical powers! Hmm, where can we find two such boys?” They would innocently recognize themselves as the perfect actors for this ceremony. With a hand on the third wand, each would reach toward their mother in a unified offering. She, beaming with pleasure at the gesture, would receive it gratefully. Everyone would be delighted! All would be right in this microcosm of the world.
Or so went the plan. The actual performance … differed. As I worked on site, I told their mother. “I have something for the boys. Send them over when they have a few minutes.” After lunch, they were thusly sent.
“You have a present for us!” said Elam, eagerly approaching me in the side yard. His brother was right behind.
I greeted them enthusiastically. “Do you know what a magic wand is?”
“Yes, yes! I know. You make things disappear!” said Elam.
“You have to use your imagination, and see things in your mind. Like this dirt in the yard – you could make it grass, all green – but maybe in your mind only.” Actually, the sod was due to arrive the next morning. They would have some luck with this particular spell!
“I want one!” added Silas. I lifted the sleeve of my jean shirt, the temporary quiver for such concealed magic, and made the end of a wand visible. I invited Elam to draw it out. As he did so, Silas reached for a wand.
“No, Silas. Here, this one is for you!” I said with encouragement. Still he reached for the pink bejeweled wand meant for another. I quickly pulled out the Backfire Wand, explaining the catch so associated. “So you must always wish for good things, because the same will happen to you!” I had considered this to be my most creative twist in forging magic from wood.
Unrelenting, he insisted, “I want the one with the pink diamond!” Straining my sales ability, I showed him the feathers coming out of both ends of the handle. This was a minor work of art which he could surely appreciate.
“No, I want that one!” My stints at teaching Kindergarten began to flash through my mind. His mother approached, no doubt to gauge whether the commotion required skilled intervention. I decided to use the occasion for successful distraction.
“Hey, here comes Mom, the Birthday Girl! Let’s give her a wand. Remember, I told you two boys with wands have to give it to her!” In the melee, Silas took the Backfire Wand and each boy grabbed the third wand. The presentation to the Queen was unceremonious, as the boys pushed the wand toward her in mid air. No sooner did she have it in hand than Silas retrieved and replaced it with his own.
Before I could straighten the matter out, a family friend appeared with more children to add to the failing equation. Fully engaged in this new diversion, the boys scampered off, wands waving in the air. “Remember, these are not swords!” I cried after them in a desperate attempt to minimize the damage by my uninitiated Jedi.
Well accustomed to such mayhem, their mother flashed me a smile and asked, “Do you have insurance for those things?”
With a sigh I replied, “You did sign the liability waiver, didn’t you?” The entire entourage swirled off like clouds defying a weatherman’s prediction. Offering a brief prayer for family safety, I returned to my work.
A while later, I rounded a corner of the house to see Silas, victoriously waving the pink diamond wand – but from the wrong end. “Silas, you should hold it by the handle,” I instructed.
“Why? The diamond sends the magic!” There it was: another mind-blowing insight from the innocent eyes of a child.
I have no idea whether the wands survived the day or the brothers emerged unscathed. For me, it was one of those moments one cannot anticipate, a centrifugal energy that breaks free from a contained and circular flight. With another tangential twang, I was reminded of the limitations we face in steering events as they unfold in real time.
That, and the proper way to hold a magic wand.