In my father’s never-ending quest to explore new things, he taught himself to use an abacus board to perform all sorts of mathematical functions. “Those Chinese,” he said, “they really know their stuff.” He was a standup comedian and he always carried four by five index cards in his breast pocket where he wrote down jokes that he heard throughout the day. He learned to speak Spanish and he went to the opera by himself because my mother said, “Music is not my cup of

When I was eight years old, in 1957, the last Saturday in March, my father tip-toed into my bedroom, woke me up and told me to dress warm and meet him in the kitchen. “Don’t wake up  the sleepy heads,” he whispered, referring to my mother and sister. I followed
him into the garage as he flipped the car keys into the air, pretending to drop them, making the catch just before they clattered onto the floor. I giggled.

“Sh-h-h,” he said.

The stars were still sprinkled across the edge of the horizon when he started the engine and we pulled out onto the road.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“The airport. It’s about twenty minutes from here.”

“Why? Are we going on a plane?” I had never flown before.

“No. We’re on our way to see a solar eclipse. When the sun starts to rise, the moon’s going to cover it.”


“The moon is jealous. It has to disappear every morning when the sun comes out. But today the moon wants extra attention. It’ll start to get light, and then all of a sudden, it’ll get dark again.”


“No, just for a little while. The moon is going to pass over the sun. It’s called an eclipse. Remember when we saw one on the ceiling at the planetarium?”

A few weeks earlier, my father and I had leaned back against the headrests of the gray upholstered chairs in the darkened dome-shaped room. “Look up at the ceiling,” he had whispered to me when the show was beginning. “Follow the white arrow with your eyes. It’ll float right across the sky above you.”

I turned my gaze upward as thousands of stars were projected across the imaginary skies. I learned a special language: Orion, the Southern Cross, Capricorn, the Big Dipper, the Pleiades. When we were heading back home, I voiced a concern. “Those stars we saw on the ceiling,” I said, “some of them aren’t there anymore, right?”

“That’s right. They exploded thousands, maybe millions of years ago. It takes the light so long to travel, they call it light years.We can still see the stars, but they’re gone.”

“The thing is,” I said thoughtfully, “how can you be sure the moon is still there?”

“I can’t explain it,” he said. “It’s magic.

On our way to the airport, incandescent street lamps lit up the brick-and-wood houses that seemed to hover in the air above the lawns that surrounded them like shiny grass skirts.

“How many light years away is the eclipse?” I asked, using my new words.

My father grinned. “I don’t know, honey, a lot. And you know what? It won’t happen again for seventy years.”

“You’ll be pretty old by then,” I said.

“I will,” he agreed. “More than a hundred.”

“Will you still have hair?”

“Yes. But it’ll be white.”

“Will you be able to see?”

“My glasses might be a little thicker.”

“Well, don’t worry. I’ll drive,” I assured him.

“Deal,” he said.

It was still dark when we arrived at the airport. We parked on an adjacent street and walked to the open field beside the runway. A few other adventurous souls milled around in the darkness. I resented their presence. This time belonged to my father and
me, so I pretended they weren’t there. I held his hand tightly as we stopped in the middle of the field. A faint glow appeared along the horizon lighting up the edge of the world. My father’s upturned face became a dark silhouette against the glowing heavens and I reached my hands up toward the sky. Then, just like he had promised, it became dark for a few minutes until slowly, the sun took center stage once again. When we got back into the car, I knew I had witnessed magic. I had seen the earth reverse itself.

I believe in magic but there are different kinds and each person has to define it in their own personal way. I don’t give credence to what is called “magical thinking,” the idea that we can manipulate existence. That the so-called “universe” will give us whatever we want. That if we utter certain phrases or perform certain actions, we can influence the world around us. I don’t see it as an illusion or a card trick either. It’s not about sawing in half a beautiful woman in fishnettights or making an elephant disappear.

To me, magic is about nature and serendipity, when things line up perfectly in a way you never thought possible. It’s the musical notes a person links together to create a symphony. It’s the sound of a child giggling. It’s a blossom turning into a magnificent flower. When magic is real, a feeling of awe accomanies it, a light-filled sense that you’re witnessing a miracle that has no concrete explanation other
than it delights whomever has the good fortune to behold it.

I took a day trip with a friend to Descanso Gardens in La
Cañada last spring to see the mighty trees, the Bonsais and multiple gardens of glorious flowers that were in full bloom. The colors were so brilliant, the scents they gave off were so intoxicating, I realized that magic is not an action. It’s a mystery, a spontaneous creation
where little or no effort is expended to cause beathtaking beauty. It’s a state of being like a sudden meeting up of old friends in remote places. Thinking the same thing at the same time. Knowing someone is going to call before the phone rings.

Author Nora Roberts said, “Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars. Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and extraordinary part of the lives we live.”