And, yes, I am a hippie.
To point our children toward a sly glimpse of the crystalline fairies in a drop of dew....
To wonder in awe at Titan voices booming across the evening sky during a summer thunderstorm....
To marvel at orchestras captured on silver discs, musicians trapped like microscopic genies to be released in song only at the listener's wish and command....
Ah bliss! Ah joy!
To support and stimulate their creative selves and thusly nourish their hearts and souls with the food of poets and saints!
(And I'm not talking cigarettes and day-old baguettes.)
But, as a bittersweet fact of life, every day my children grow a bit older and, so too, a bit too wise for the world's magic.
Mostly, I blame science.
(That honeymoon was over quickly.)
One golden-hued afternoon, my girls are sitting on their bed happily naming the angels they insist they can see dancing on the head of a pin. The following week, they're discussing the atomic force microscope and how the sharp point of the carbon nanotube would determine once and for all whether and how many angels were actually boogying down, even though the super sharp point would probably poke the bejeezus out of most of the angels such that from thence forward, angels would stay the hell off pinheads altogether and begin dancing on clouds, where they belong. Although, then they'd remind me that in their lesson on the weather, they learned that clouds were made mostly of condensed water droplets and could probably support the weight of a few very small celestial beings, but not an entire host of seraphim because, c'mon, six wings each? The whole shebang is becoming suspect.
It doesn't matter when I point out that no one actually knows how heavy a seraphim is: my kids are on a quest to figure it out.
And somewhere, someplace, a fairy sheds a tear.
I could tell them, warn them, implore them - Don't look at the man behind the curtain! Don't figure how Santa gets to every house in the world in one evening, even after adjusting the formula for Jewish kids and cranky anti-consumerists! Don't stay up late and try to catch the "Tooth Fairy" in her bathrobe and Pond's facial cream masque! Don't question the lack of causation and faulty correlation between mommy's big tummy and large white birds with messenger caps! Keep the magic! Vive le mystery!
But the little stinkers are like curious cats batting Tinker Bell's tiny body across the kitchen floor - a soft, sad jingle barely audible as she rolls under the refrigerator and her limp little arms and legs come to rest against a dust bunny and a dry noodle.
The shame of it all is that I was just getting good at being their Field Director of Whimsy. Prima would write a two page letter to the Tooth Fairy asking what she looked like, what she did on her days off, and most importantly, what the heck did she do with all those teeth? And the Tooth Fairy would reply with photos and gilded pages and purple prose printouts explaining in detail all the magical happenings in Fairyland - how Prima's first lost tooth would be used to crown the newest fairy princess baby; how other teeth would be polished and fashioned into lanterns and bells for the autumn harvest festival; and, how in Fairyland, Prima and her sister were known each by their own fanciful fairy names - Juniper Icedancer and Feather Elfdancer.
One night, the Tooth Fairy forgot to make her visit and a tooth was unexpectedly found the next morning still under the pillow. A note later appeared explaining that because the family cat was reclining on Prima's bed, the Tooth Fairy couldn't retrieve the wee lower incisor. And the reason she couldn't go into the room to grab the tooth was because, evidently, when a cat sees a fairy, the cat begins to sing. Loudly. And because waking the entire house with a singing cat just wouldn't do, the Tooth Fairy had to abort attempts to retrieve the package and try again another night.
My daughters believed.
And the next night, the cat was locked in the basement.
And the Tooth Fairy arrived as originally planned and finished the job at hand.
That's not to say that as they wield their microscopes and telescopes and National Geographic Kids and It's So Amazing to debunk their own childhood illusions and denude one apple tree after another, that they aren't at the same time beginning to occasionally take a glance backward with - if not quite regret - then their own bittersweet understanding that they are propelling themselves through realms of reality, barely slamming one door closed as they race through the next. That they can't stop themselves. That they shouldn't stop themselves, but that at the same time, when they do now go searching for fairies and even monsters under the bed, the sightings are becoming a little more infrequent. Not impossible to track and stalk...but...tricky.
I do my best to manufacture a little magic in my own way. Keep them guessing. Keep them on their toes when they get a bit too sure that they know what's around every corner, what's through the next door. Just to keep their poetic toes a dancing. Just to help put a drag on once in a while least they suddenly find themselves too soon too grown-up with a job and a mortgage and not a whole lot of free time left to track fairies.
Sometimes I need to get creative.
"Mommy, how do you spell parallel?"
"P-a-r-a-l-l-e-l. Hey! Did you know that double l's in parallel are parallel. They could go on forever and never touch!"
"Yeah. I knew that."
"Did you know that parallel can refer to two actions happening at the same time?"
"Roll eyes. Yeah. I knew that, too."
"Did you know that the German for parallel is parallel?
"Oh no oh no!"
"I completely forgot."
"Sigh. That part about the German for parallel being parallel...that was the last thing I was supposed to teach you before you turned 18 and were ready to leave for college. Drat."
"Uh-huh. That was the last thing on the list. I guess you'll have to skip middle school and high school and go right to U. Penn next fall."
"Nuh-uh. There's no such thing as a list."
"Oh sure. When you were born in the hospital, they gave me a list of things I was supposed to tell you and that the teachers wouldn't cover in school. I was supposed to refer to list and go in order. They were very specific in telling me I had to go in order. Oh well. You'll figure out canasta and how to separate reds and whites when doing laundry on your own."
"Really? Did they really give you a list?"
"Absolutely. The last thing I checked off was 'Teach your child how to make toast.' Remember? We did that last week."
"Sure. Now just don't tell your sister about parallel. You're going to love college. Eh-hem."
"I'm going to ask Daddy. That doesn't sound right."
And somewhere, someplace, a fairy heaves herself off the floor, brushes the cat slobber off her skirt, and flitters away with a sly smile...and a jingly jangly flip of the bird.