Saturday, December 20, 2014
A Red Plastic Bird and Magic
There's a little red bird, plastic and sparkly, hung by a child's hands. It dangles from a tree in my yard. It's a bit of real magic. Really. I admit it was unplanned-- the bird on the tree all year. Well, at first it was unplanned.
During a late winter thaw in February, I discovered it on the ground in the icy, crumbling leaves several feet from the tree. It was no doubt blown there by a racing north wind, right off the branch where little fingers had set it to perch.
Rather than carry it to the basement and dig out the container holding the rest of the ornaments, I tucked it back on the tree to ride out the winter. And the spring. And the summer. Even autumn as it turned out. It spent the year on the rose of sharon tree .
Natalie discovered it there one spring day while we were walking around the yard looking for emerging daffodils and tulips. She asked why one red bird from Christmas was still on the tree, and before I could answer, she did. Her eyebrows shot up and a knowing smile spread across her lips. Magic twinkled in her eyes. "Oh. Because we see it and we think of Christmas."
From that moment on, the red plastic bird in the bush was intentional. There were times when I was weeding around the hosta plants beneath the trees, and I'd look at the redbird and smile while remembering the day Nattie first hung it there. And then I'd smile thinking about how it "flew" with the wind. And there were days in summer when we built a fire to toast marshmallows, and the bird hung just beyond our chairs around the fire ring. More magic.
The roses bloomed around it in late summer, and then the leaves faded to a soft autumn gold. Still the redbird hung, its sparkles fading, but not the magic in the memories it brought.
A Saturday in November, Nattie and her parents and baby sister had just arrived. She raced into the house--straight to where I was in the kitchen and said, "Grammie! We need to decorate the trees before it gets dark. We don't have much time!" I left kitchen chores and headed to the basement to get the ornaments. Pap went too because he knew "exactly" where they were." And I think there was a bounce (magic-induced) in his step.
A little bit of magic began to spread around while we were decorating the trees. Nattie announced she was going to hang the first ornament, "Next to the bird." She was so excited, she ran between the trees, then back to get more of the shiny orbs.
Before long, Nattie's aunt Ziggy was with us, jacket-less, in the cold (the lure of magic is strong), helping to hang ornaments. Quick to follow was Nattie's daddy, fortuitous his arrival was. One of these little trees Nattie and I have decorated every year since she was one year old had suddenly grown too tall for anyone but her dad to reach the top.
We stuck it out until it was too dark to see what we were doing, and Nattie's fingers were cold--she'd removed her gloves to get the hooks and ribbons over the branches.
The magic glow hung over the evening, over finishing cooking the meal, over cleaning up after the gang left. Things that might have been just chores that had to be done turned to joy-- with a little Christmas magic applied. And all it took was a child and a red plastic bird to remind me of that magic.
While I finished putting away silverware and pans, I mused over what a wonderful evening it'd been, and I thought about the red plastic bird, and about magic. About real magic. Without conscious thought, the words of Charles Dickens came out of my mouth. "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
What exactly did Dickens' words mean? Keep Christmas? Or did he mean, keep magic in his heart?
Christmas is magic. When we look past the hustle-bustle and the stress of never enough money or time, we feel the magic. When we move beyond a tiresome cookie baking marathon, to having cookies, tea, and a good talk with a friend, we feel the magic. When we open our hearts to the moment, to the wholly joyous in this minute, rather than the endless list of what must be done next, we open our hearts to the magic. When we love, and when we give... well, magic surrounds us.
We all need to keep a red plastic bird hanging, even if it hangs only in our heart, to summon the magic as easily as children do...the whole year through. Because real magic lives...even beyond Christmas.