Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Year After Year of Magical Thinking

Maybe we are the stories we tell.

The ones passed down and left behind, the sayings we repeat without realizing we heard them on a daily basis (Be careful! My land! Hogs and kisses. Hello baby girl). We’re those small maybe enormous truths our parents and grandparents left to us in every story or joke or recipe. Like the little truth that when I make cheesecake it's always my grandmother's cheesecake, the only cheesecake in our family, holiday after holiday my entire life. There may be better cheesecakes out there (I sincerely doubt it, I've won bake-offs with this baby) but who cares: this is ingrained, it's family, it's personal, that's it. We're all of us wrapped up in our emotional DNA, born into our families or adopted, doesn't matter.

We’re the box with our mother’s wedding dress still in it, the one we opened up breathlessly when we first discovered it in the closet. We’re the photo where the bride and groom feed each other wedding cake. The lessons of the plums or the garden. The embroidery on the Christmas table runner set out just so every December, the menorah given from father to only daughter, the mementos that represent something almost lost to us but not quite, not yet. Every Thanksgiving a small part of my parents arrive at the table along with everyone else, even though physically they can’t be here. I hear my father’s voice whenever we pour wine, feel my mother whenever I make sweet potatoes, listen to conversations in my head that haven’t existed in a while, repeat, replay, pause. I’m the stories they gave me, their morality and their lessons, their gift for gab, their music, their laughter or swearing, their silences, too.

But we’re all another set of stories as well, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

We’re the magical thinking we tell ourselves. We’re the parts that aren’t rational at all, the superstitions, the fallacies we like to pretend are real.

We say there’s a reason for everything. That things will get better, they just have to. That if you believe it, hope for it, pray for it, it – whatever it is - will come true. We tell our single friends that love is just around the corner, and if they give up looking then Voila, there it will be. That good will triumph over bad, why wouldn't it, of course it will. We pour salt and stay away from ladders, we speak to stars and blow out candles, we hope and believe and believe and hope again because, honestly, some spark may touch coincidence and ignite. The raw truth that our friends have been around 13,146 corners in the last few years doesn’t matter; it just hasn’t been the right corner. Or the right time. Or they haven’t believed quite deeply enough. Count to three. Don't step on a crack. Hold your breath. Believe.

And it’s all, isn’t it, magic? Of course it is.

An invisible face in the sky or some enormous and all-presiding benevolent being looking down at us, protecting us; incantation, recitation, a magic word, a lottery number, blue sky, glass slippers, the world making sense, life giving never taking. Some people think they can't exist without magic. Some wouldn't have it any other way, take huge comfort, but I don't. I do it when I do it almost automatically, the way human beings have done it for thousands of years. And I know better. Yet there it goes, foxhole or not, and I wish I didn't. Or I wish it changed things. Or I wished...whatever. There it goes, that wishing thing again.

We want fiction in our real lives; we want reality TV instead of reality life. But why? Why is real life, our own, the ones lived by us and passed down to us, not good enough? They have enough magic in them already, don't they? At least isn't it pretty to think so? -- Janet


  1. Janetska,
    You take my breath away.

  2. Oh Lisa you are so sweet. And so kind. I'm glad you read what we write. It helps to know there's at least one person or two out there who do. xxoooo

  3. Charlotte10:34 AM

    Ohhhh. I love this. But there is power in some wishing isn't there? Dreaming things? I mean, if we didn't dream them, we couldn't move toward making them happen? I'm so full of wishing these days, of course this is what I would write...Mostly I wish that all the good I have doesn't get dashed away by some cruel trick of fate...I wish to keep having what I have...and maybe just then some... Charlotte

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