Thanks for the Magic
This is not what I thought adulthood would be like. Once as a little boy, I stared up into a clear, blue, cloudless Illinois sky and imagined myself growing up to be a helicopter pilot. I closed my young eyes, pictured it with vivid detail. Soaring through the open atmosphere, at one with the magical, mechanical beast, picking up speed just because I could and suddenly banking hard and then climbing up, up, up purely for the fun of it and laughing out loud and actually feeling the Gs in my gut and having not the faintest doubt that adulthood would be that and so much more.
I sit in a gray office, thoroughly cubicled. Hours of paperwork and data entry lay before me, and I woke up in the cold this morning long before sunrise. When I wade through the traffic to get back home, it will be dark again.
Schopenhauer echoes through my skull. “In early youth, as we contemplate our coming life, we are like children in a theatre before the curtain is raised, sitting there in high spirits and eagerly waiting for the play to begin. It is a blessing that we do not know what is really going to happen.”
I look out the window. I hadn’t noticed before, but it’s snowing heavily. I shake my head, imagining what Seoul traffic will be like on the way home. My commute is an hour on the best of days, but when there’s snow it could add thirty more minutes. Or a whole extra hour. I'll get home so late that there won't be any time for living.
“God damn it.”
I stare out the window at a gray parking lot and think of a line from McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. “…he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they'd have no heart to start at all.”
But as I watch the flakes fall, I remember how my kids have been waiting for a good snow all week.
“Daddy, it’s supposed to snow tomorrow!” They’ve been anticipating this simple, frozen precipitation with a giddy level of joy that I don’t even feel capable of anymore.
In my mind, I see them on the playground with their friends. They shout, smile, and stare up into the sky, eyes and mouths open with wonder. Running around with heartfelt, shrieking laughter, they make snowballs, pack them as tight as they can, and chase after each other.
My phone vibrates. It’s my younger son. When I pick up, he’s so excited he doesn’t even say hello. “It’s snowing! Did you see?”
“Yeah, buddy. Really cool, right?”
“Yeah. It’s already deep here.”
“Does it make good snowballs?”
“Yeah.” Laughter in the background. He yells something in Korean to his friends. “I’m gonna go play.”
“Okay. See you tonight.”
I set the phone down and watch the snow fall. The flakes are huge, almost impossibly fat, and sometimes they do a little dance on the wind. My eyes refocus on the wooded area just beyond the parking lot. It takes on a serene, almost mystical beauty as snow coats the rocks, soil, and boughs. Suddenly it feels like a deer might run through at any moment, or a fellowship of dwarves and elves on an epic adventure. It occurs to me that the water molecules floating down are the same ones that have recycled across millennia on the surface of this giant rock hurtling through space. The water of these snowflakes has been rivers, oceans, clouds. It's been the blood of kings and pirates and dinosaurs. It's been in the eyes of untold millions, watching itself freeze and fall like this over and over, the same and yet new each time.
Emerson’s words echo in my mind. “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
Have to remember that one more often.
This is one of the best parts of having kids. They can clear the crust from our eyes, just by being who they are. Just by reminding us that a different way of seeing exists.
Thank you, boys.
Thanks for the little bit of magic.
About the Author: Kevin Stadt is an English teacher with a doctorate in American literature. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in anthologies and magazines such as Lazarus Risen, Kzine, Phantaxis, Stupefying Stories, and many more. He lives in South Korea with his wife and sons, who are interdimensional cyborg pirates.