Magic is real as long as you believe… AND I DON’T


(in a park, sitting on a bench with Hank while Molly frolics)

Molly: Mama! Mamamamama Chicken, Looooook! (pointing) Fairy-dragon-butterfly!!!

Me: (noticing the dragon fly resting on a leaf in the park stream) Magia (Magic)!

Molly: (screaming with the full force of her mighty being at the fairy-dragon-butterfly) MAGIA!

Hank: (giggling)

Me: (to Hank) She is going to love the fairy door this year. Think of all the wonderful things she will learn from Paige Portensia Xanthro Sprigh.

Hank: (shoulders sink)



Me: You’re thinking rather loudly.

Hank: Mama, who is Paige Portensia?

Me: The director of Far Flung Fairies, Inc. The celestial corporation that maintains and manages our Fairy Door.

Hank: Mama, who wrote the letters?

Me: Paige Portensia.

Hank: Mama.

Me: Magic is only real…

Hank: (annoyed, interrupting) I KNOW, I know! Magic is only real as long as you believe and I don’t.

Me: Oh.

Hank: You wrote the letters?

Me: Yes.

Hank: And you took the art and left the fairy money?

Me: Guilty. (pause) Are you mad?

Hank: A little. I am a little mad. I really, really believed.

Me: And now you have chosen to stop so the magic is gone and all you have left is your silly mother who loved making the magic for you.

Hank: (deep sigh)



Me: You know, your pai (dad) hated my fairy mischief.

Hank: Really?

Me: OH yah. He hated when I painted coins with nail polish late at night because the whole apartment smelled like varnish. He also is the reason Santa never came to our house. He felt so betrayed when he stopped believing in magic. He felt lied to. Do you feel lied to?

Hank: A little. Yes, I do.

Me: I am sorry.

Hank: And you hate lying.

Me: I do, but I don’t feel that creating Paige Portensia was lying. I feel I made magic for you and for me. It was magical the look on your face, the way your heart sang because you had a door in your house where magic seeped through. It is your choice to stop believing and I respect that.

Hank: But is wasn’t real.

Me: Yes, it was.

Hank: But you did it not fairies.

Me: That doesn’t mean that magic isn’t real.

Hank: (disdain) You really still believe in magic and fairies?

Me: I do. I really do. I am being entirely sincere, because magic is real as long as I believe in it and as long as I help make magic for other people. Magic is like art. There are two ways of looking at art: one is with wonder and the other is with indifference. Those full of wonder marvel at a work of art and it moves them as only the piece can move that special, individual soul and those who live indifferent to art look at it and think, “I could have made that. What’s so special about that? How could that fetch millions of dollars?” It’s the same with magic.

Hank: I am mad, a bit, but I am more sad since I loved it all so much. I am sad it is over.

Me: But why is it over?

Hank: What do you mean? I know none of it was real!

Me: Ah, yes. I did write letters and collect your beautiful drawings and teeth, but part of the glory of magic is making it for others. And look over there at that silly, romping, little sister. You can advise me to the contrary, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she is going to love our fairy door and all the magic that you and I can make for her. That we can make together… if you wish.

Molly: (poking the creek bottom with a rather long stick, enraptured with stirring up algae)





Hank: I think I don’t know how I feel.

Me: And that is perfectly okay.

Hank: I think I am going to want her to believe. I think I still want to believe and am mad I have to grow up!

Me: But why do you have to grow up?

Hank: MOOOOOM, seriously.

Me: Oh, but I am being serious. Dead serious. Growing up is a trap. If you are 95 years old and not looking for dragons hiding in castle corners I feel epically sorry for you.

Hank: Really mom?!

Me: Truly. You can be mature, serious, own a house and a car, have children, a career and pay all your bills every month, but if you have no magic in your life, no whimsy, no delight in nonsense and far too few belly laughs I pity you. With the depths of my soul I am the richest woman I know because I still believe and therefore I live a magical life.

Hank: (harrumph)

Me: Thank you for not being too angry with me, Hank, I couldn’t bare it. And besides (putting my arm around his shoulder) we had so much fun, didn’t we?

Hank: (cracking a smile)

Me: Could you imagine your childhood any other way? Without sleeping dragons and dragon stew? Without the fairy door and magical art show profits? Without wands and bedtime stories and mischief?

Hank: No.

Me: Then be mad as long as you want, but please think about aiding in the magic of your sister’s childhood. I am pretty positive if we both contribute we can create something amazing.



Molly: MANO (brother)! MANO (brother)!!!!

Hank: Já vai (coming). (getting up to walk away but turning back) I’ll think about it, mom.

Me: Thanks, buddy.


Magic, Post and Pai Natal (Santa Claus)

"Magic doesn't just happen YOU make it happen." A page from my book Shoe Mice. Illustrated by Nervo.

“Magic doesn’t just happen YOU make it happen.” A page from my book Shoe Mice. Illustrated by Nervo.


(Hank, Pai and I are sat at the table for a late dinner. Molly, who ate much earlier, is sat at the table with a doll house and singing to herself while she decorates each room)

Molly: (singing to the tune of jingle bells) Pai Natal, Pai Natal, Natal, Natal, Natal (Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.)

Me: This is the year.

Pai: Yup.

Hank: This is what year?

Me: This is the year Molly will understand and be excited for Christmas.

Pai: The last two years she was too small.

Hank: Oh. (pause)

Me: We have to decide what we are going to do this year about Pai Natal (Santa Claus). Pai (dad) is against Pai Natal (Santa Claus) coming to our house.

Pai: I do not want Pai Natal (Santa Claus) to enter our home. I like to make Christmas. I don’t like anyone else doing it for me.

Me: Which is what led to me writing the letter to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) asking him not to come here when you were born.

Hank: So you already wrote the letter for Molly?

Me: Nope. We needed to have a family meeting about this. Do we want the same for Molly? Are we three happy to make the magic for her?

Pai: You know how I feel.

Hank: Some kids don’t want to believe and magic is only real as long as you believe it is real. Pai Natal (Santa Claus) is magic and if you don’t believe he isn’t real.

Me: What do you believe?

Hank: I believe in magic. I also believe that you make magic.

Me: (nodding, happy that my lectures over the years have stuck)

Hank: I don’t think Pai Natal (Santa Claus) should come to our house. We should write him the letter saying “no, thank you.”

Molly: (singing, focus still on adding more and more teeny-tiny milk bottles to her tiny refrigerator) Please, No Thank You. Please, No Thank You. Please, Please, Please, Please, No Thank You.

Hank: But how do you even get a letter to Pai Natal? Through our fairy door?

Me: I am sure Paige Portensia Xanthro Sprigh is far too busy with teeth collection to handle a message to the North Pole. No, we send a letter through the post office.

Hank: The actual Post Office?

Pai: The Post Office takes letters to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) very seriously.

Hank: Seriously?

Me: Seriously. We will use the beautiful stationary that papa bought me in Vienna and I will write to Pai Natal (Santa Claus) this weekend asking him to officially exclude Molly from his deliveries.

Hank: But how does the Post Office know where to send the letter?

Me: Easy, we use his address.

Hank: Pai Natal (Santa Clause) has an address?

Me: Sure. Pai Natal, Pole Norte. (Santa Clause, North Pole).

Hank: And it gets to him?

Me: The mail is always delivered.

Hank: How?

Me: Well, I don’t know, maybe we should ask our friend, Anna, in Lapland.

Pai: Good idea. She would know.

Hank: In Finland?

Me: Yes. Anna lives in Lapland, the very edge of the human world. The last human outpost before the North Pole. Maybe she will know how the post is handled.

Pai: Maybe.

Hank: It is hard giving Pai Natal (Santa Claus) to other children who really need him. Teachers and neighbors don’t understand. I will help Molly with that part.

Me: OH the stress and drama we endured every year! You were beside yourself with worry that Pai Natal (Santa Claus) would get confused and bring you a present anyway. It was a nightmare for your poor nerves and mine!

Hank: I know now that wouldn’t have happened.

Me: (raised eyebrow)

Pai: You do?

Hank: Yes, you two made the magic. O Espírito de Natal (The spirit of Christmas) is made by parents. 

Pai: In our house.

Hank: In every house.

Me: (nodding, because no one ever called him dumb, not one day, and suddenly, although he was born yesterday, Hank is nine and he gets it)

Pai: (making eye contact with Hank, acknowledging that we know he knows what he knows we know)

Hank: I don’t mind. I like it this way.

Me: And this year the magic will be made by three and it will be extra special.

Hank: I’m excited to make magic for my sister.

Pai: (winking at me) You learned from the best!


A Thunderous Thursday

conversations with hank

Molly showing me her “tomatoes”


Hank: Oh mama! Those roses are beautiful!

Me: Oh, but Hank, smell them!

Hank: (drinking in their sweetness) Wow. Now they are even more beautiful!

Me: I adore my dumpster roses. Your papa came home from the Horta Pedagógica (community gardens) one night with a bunch of sticks wrapped in newspaper and said our neighbor stopped him and told him she had far too many roses and if he was interested she had thrown away a garden full and all he had to do was push those sticks into some soil and by the following year he’d have roses.

Hank: But you didn’t believe him. I remember.

Me: I had never grown roses before. I didn’t imagine it could be easy.

Hank: And so papa put the sticks in the ground.

Me: And I learned that even roses from the dumpster can bloom. I am sad I had to go and pick these but there is rain coming and these blooms would get spoiled.

Molly: (toddling into the kitchen) Quero (I want to) see.

Hank: (taking the largest rose to her to smell)

Molly: (breathing it in) Yummy. Mama, quero cerejas (I want cherries), pleeeeeeease.

Me: (plopping the roses into a vase) Sure. There is no better breakfast than a cherry breakfast. (lifting her up on the counter to sit next to a gigantic bowl of cherries that was full the night before)

Molly: Me do it.

Me: You have to be careful. Cherries have a stone inside. Don’t eat the stone. (vigilant)

Molly: Ta bem (okay). Look, look mama! (holding up a cherry) A tomato. (giggling and wiggling at her obvious joke) Yummmmmmy tomato!

Me: (tossing my head way back and praising her with a chuckle) A tomato, you are so funny.

Molly: (nodding, pleased as punch) I funny. (biting the cherry in half and handing it to me to take out the stone while selecting another one) Looook mama! Ah, ah, uh, uh strawbury! (tossing her head back, mimicking me, laughing)

Me: A strawberry? HA! (bending at the waist, rolling with laughter) Oh, that is funny. You’re so funny, MaGoo.

Molly: (nodding, beaming) I funny.

(roll of thunder)

Molly: What’s that? What’s that, mama?

Me: What do you think that is?

Molly: Ah, ah, ah, uh, ummmmmmm…. A dragon!

Hank: Guimarães is full of sleeping dragons, Amália.

Molly: (her finger to her lips) Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh, dragon sleeping.

(another roll of thunder)

Molly: Ah, ah, uh, umm… Dragon hungry! Mama, Dragon hungry. (nodding, serious)

Me: That was the dragon’s empty belly rumbling?

Molly: SIM (Yes)! Dragon? Dra-gon!? Queres Cerejas (Want some cherries)?

Hank: Amália, dragons eat really specific foods. Are cherries on the list, mama? Remember the list of dragon foods?

Me: I know that list by heart! I have been feeding dragons since I was your age and I am a rather old woman.

Hank: (nodding then abruptly stops nodding when he realizes his nodding is saying he agrees I am old) You’re not old. You’re mama aged.

Me: (giggling) What day is it?

Hank: Um…

Me: (pre-coffee haze) Is it Thursday?

Hank: Yes, yesterday was (my) chemo day* so it was Wednesday.

Me: And there is thunder?

Molly: Dragons!

Me: Then the fates have aligned! Dragons only eat cherries in the spring on thunderous Thursdays.

Hank: (gasp) We need to tell Alice. She has a cherry tree!

Me: Don’t fret. They harvested their cherries yesterday. All the best farmers know about the dangers of a thunderous Thursday.

Hank: (smiling because he is on the cusp between still believing in magic and wanting to be the maker of magic) Amália?

Molly: (having forgotten all about us, cherry stained fingers and stuffed cheeks)

Hank: Dragons are our friends. They will come here, eat these cherries and grant you wishes and bring you luck.

Molly: No mano (brother)! NO! My cerejas (cherries)!

Me: Oh MaGoo. We have cherries to spare and I promise if today the dragons come and eat all of your cherries I will buy you more.

Hank: It is important you share!

Molly: Dragons! Ah, Ah, ah… No cherries. Tomatoes! Holding up a cherry. Tomato no cherries.

Hank: (whispering to me) Will that work?

Me: (whispering back) You can’t blame a girl for trying!

*I take a low dose oral chemotherapy for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis every Wednesday.  Hank is a worrier and every Wednesday evening has an alarm on his and my phone to remind us that I need to take my medicine.  Wednesdays have been dubbed chemo day.