“Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars?”
– – – Nora Roberts
In 1957, when I was eight, my father showed me a rectangular card with blue and silver graphics of two astronauts in spacesuits and helmets, holding oxygen tanks and walking on a white surface in boxy-looking boots. The card had a serial number and a hand written signature in blue ink.
“Guess what this is,” he whispered.
“Why are we whispering?”
“Because it’s a secret. If you promise not to tell, I’ll let you in on it.”
“It’s a ticket from Pan Am for the first space shuttle to the moon,” he said.
“You’re going to the moon?” I whispered. “When?”
“As soon as I can.”
“Can I come too?” I raised my voice. “You can’t go without me!”
“Sh-h-h. I have four tickets—one for each of us. We’re all going. But don’t tell your mother. She’ll think I’m nuts.”
Pan Am had placed an ad in the newspaper, offering seats on their first commercial flight to the moon to civilians, first come, first serve. My father sent them this note:
Gentlemen: I wish to reserve four (4) seats, first -class, for your first trip to the moon. Please advise when we can plan to make this trip, and how much luggage we would be permitted to carry.
Thank you for confirmation.
Very truly yours, Samuel M. Cagan
Shortly afterward, he received a signed confirmation letter with four tickets enclosed, declaring us to be members of the First Moon Flights Club. It was all very official and exciting, but I was pretty sure my mother would be a hard sell.
The confirmation letter read:
Dear Moon First Flighter,
Thank you for your confidence that Pan Am will pioneer commercial space travel, as it so often has here on Earth. We have every intention of living up to this confidence.
The enclosed cards formally recognize your intrepid spirit. It also reflects by serial number your family’s position of record on our Waitlist For First Moon Flights. Starting date of service is not yet known. Equipment and route will probably be subjected to government approvals. Fares are not fully resolved and may be out of this world. We ask you to be patient while these essentials are worked out before we accept deposits or make confirmed
We plan to keep you informed of all developments and we thank
you for coming to Pan Am first. That’s exactly what we intend to be. On earth. To the moon. Any place else.
Sincerely, James Montgomery
My father was pure magic. He would toss me in the air and when he put me back down, I ran beside him and together we kissed the wind. A strikingly handsome man, he always looked like he was ready to break out into a smile. He had a full head of smoky brown hair, perfectly defined calves beneath muscular thighs, and an infectious sense of humor. He was irreverent without being rude and he always had surprises. Perhaps in preparation for our upcoming moon shot, he took me to the Planetarium where we saw thousands of stars projected onto the domed ceiling. One morning, he woke me up before sunrise and we drove to a vacant lot to see an eclipse of the sun. He was fascinated by both science and mystery and he taught me to look for the unexpected things that were hiding in plain sight.
No matter how scary or hard life was, my father reminded me to find the magic. He said it was always there in some form or another. We just had to remember to look for it. He taught me not to be afraid of adventures and surprises. When we had crashing thunderstorms,
he took the family into a screened porch at the back of our house and with each flash of lightning and peal of thunder, he told us stories, he made us laugh and I still associate thunderstorms with excitement and play.
There is magic when superheroes do impossible feats like flying through the air, scaling the sides of skyscrapers or disappearing into thin air, but there is also magic in the little things. Music that carries you into a different dimension. Hummingbirds whose wings can flap 200 times per second. Ballerinas who dance and jump on the tips of their toes. The way our bodies heal. A baby taking her first steps. And for me, figuring out how to do something new on the Internet.
Real magic is a great deal more than card tricks, making doves appear and sawing a woman in half. It’s a feeling, a sense of mystery, a way to marvel at the inexplicable synchronicity of life
as we know it. If you can accept that there is more than the mundane comings and goings of daily life, if you can imagine that there is a great deal more than the eye can see, you can find a way to start rising above the darkness and heading toward the light of the miraculous. All you have to do is believe.
J. M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan,” said, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”