One special event in particular earned Prima's adoration above anything else. Once a year, the daycare arranged a special magic show put on by a performer called The Amazing Andy.
The Amazing Andy stood before his pint-sized audience dressed in snazzy stripes and suspenders with a top hat over his long hair. He conducted his magic show in a high, squeaky voice and didn't get discouraged when his tricks went terribly wrong. The children howled when his magic wands fell apart or his magic rings refused to come unstuck. They gleefully shouted his special magic words along with him: "Pink Panther Pickles With Ketchup On Top!!"
By the way, I spent a good part of the day today trying to remember The Amazing Andy's exact magic words. I made the mistake of asking my husband if he could remember them and he said, "Yeah, it's 'Abracadabra I'm a Pedophile." So you see, my husband is clearly to blame for all of the insanity in our family.
Being chosen as The Amazing Andy's assistant was the highlight of many a child's daycare experience, and Prima was no different. When The Amazing Andy chose her out of a crowd of eager preschoolers to assist with a magic trick, her face glowed with something akin to religious fervor. Her eyes sparkled and her little body trembled with such joy I honestly thought she might collapse in some kind of fit.
I think it was the best moment of her life.
That night, Prima emerged from the playroom and announced to my husband and me, "I am going to do a magic trick just like The Amazing Andy. I memorized his magic words."
She brandished a magic wand and a rubber ducky with such confidence. How could her trick fail? Prima carefully hid the duck under a plastic bin. "I'm going to make this rubber duckie...DISAPPEAR!" She took a deep breath, waved her wand in dramatic circles over the bin, and spoke the magic words. "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top!"
Without hesitation, Prima lifted the bin to revel in the success of her magical abilities. Incomprehensibly, the duckie still sat there. Mocking her with its cheerful grin.
Never one to immediately accept defeat, Prima tried again. And again. The duckie refused to disappear, and Prima's faith in The Amazing Andy's magic words began to falter.
So, we did what any decent parents would do. We helped our poor, sad, nonmagical child achieve her goal. My husband said, "Maybe it would work better if you closed your eyes while you said the magic words."
"Yes," I added, "and say the words really slowly. Three times."
Because she trusted her parents without question, Prima immediately put our advice to the test. Once again, she hid the duckie. Once again, she took a deep breath and began to wave her magic wand. She spoke the magic words slowly and clearly, "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top. Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top. Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top."
Slowly, hopefully, she reached down to look under the bin.
Oh, the joy and rapture!! The thrill, the elation the exultation! Prima did real, actual magic!
Who knows where that rubber duckie ended up. An alternate universe? A strange bathtub on the other side of the world? Mars? Or, maybe someplace a bit closer to home.
Prima tried many times to recreate her one magical moment, but it seemed her supply of magic had run out. For years, she honestly believed she'd made that rubber ducky disappear and we didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise. Sometimes what's funny when you have a preschooler isn't so funny when you have an older child who still tells people about the time she accomplished real magic while you stand awkwardly by, smiling, and knowing someday that poor kid is going to be seriously pissed off at you.
Yes, we eventually told her the truth. She yelled at us. She might still be a little bitter. OK, a lot bitter. But she also spent a few years thinking she'd done the impossible. She believed she could make magic.
And you know what? I believe she still can make magic.