It’s Friday and I’m carrying Eve on my back in a carrier. We’re doing some light hiking in the Barton Creek greenbelt, searching for water we will never find as it has all dried up—a ten foot deep swimming hole bone dry, not even a puddle.
But we don’t know that and we’re hiking and she’s on my back. She’s close to my ear, so close I can feel her breath. I ask her what she’s thinking about. She doesn’t answer. Doesn’t hear me. I ask louder, “What do you think about when you’re thinking?”
She says, “Horses and ponies and unicorns.”
She talks like popcorn popping about horses and ponies and unicorns. She tells me she’s seen horses and ponies but she’s never seen a unicorn.
My friend Kristi advised me once that you can’t let your child believe unicorns are real because one day they’ll be teenagers who don’t know that unicorns are mythical creatures and they’ll go to the zoo looking for one. So I say to Eve, “Well, you haven’t seen a unicorn because unicorns are imaginary” and she says, deflated, “Yeah.”
And that sound, the way she lets out so much breath in a single syllable, it brakes my heart. It’s the sound of an innocent encountering the unflinching brick wall of “the real world.” I hate that sound. I always hate that sound.
I quickly decide Kristi would understand what I was about to say if she’d heard the soul-shrinking sound, and I re-route the course of discussion. I say, “You know, just because no one’s ever seen one doesn’t mean unicorns aren’t real.”
And with that, Eve and I begin a stirring conversation concerning fairy tales, magic, the unseen and the kingdom of God on earth. I tell Eve no one has ever seen all kinds of things that are certainly, unequivocally real.
She asks me when I’ve seen magic. I tell her I’ve seen magic in the mail and magic in people and magic when I thought something would never happen and it did and magic when I thought something would inevitably happen and it didn’t.
I talk a lot. I have, evidently, seen my fair share of the magical.
And when I stop she says, “I know of one magical thing that I learned about in Bible class.” And I say, “What?” And she holds out her hand where I can see it. She closes her fingers into a fist, breathes on them, and slowly opens them, like petals unfolding or like a magician would open his hand, drawing out the suspense, asking you to look closer for the coin or ball or scarf.
She says, “God took the dust and breeeeeeeeathed into it and it came alive and was a human.”
And I say, “That is definitely magical.”
And she says, with closed eyes and a lips together grin, “Mmmhmm.”