Magic is a word that we use to describe too many things. We attach it to things we don’t want to research, so we assume it’s magic. In the military, I’ve heard too many acronyms to list, but my favorite is PFM. I won’t divulge the entire acronym, but the “p” is pure, and the “m” is magic. I assume you can figure out the rest. It is an immediate and disarming answer for when you have a great idea and have no clue how it will be accomplished. “How exactly do plan to get the the equipment from point A to point B with no resources?” “PFM, sir.” Everyone laughs and all the questions disappear. In a sense, the use of PFM is PFM.
Not that I am dismissive of magic, because it does happen. In fact, I’m watching it right now. My three offspring are huddled around a cheaply made, Chinese piece of plastic that is underneath an outdoor water faucet. And the sight is truly magical. I wasn’t there when Ernest Rutherford split the atom, but I imagine he was less surprised than my children when they figured out how to activate the outdoor water dispensing apparatus.
There is splashing, filling the water table, turning over the water table. More splashing and refilling. Toys, once thought old and past their prime, gain new life with the addition of water. Brothers who will argue over who owns which one of the hundred variations of Lightning McQueen, are sharing the toy that captures the imagination: a plastic cup. Callie is soaked from head to toe and has a smile so bright, the sun is envious.
This experience, like the mystery of magic, fades with time and experience. The goodwill eventually evaporates. The water table gets flipped one too many times. The plastic cup becomes a symbol of power that of course, is abused. Callie turns into a pumpkin once she realizes it is 15 minutes past nap time. And colds previous thought defeated, rear their ugly heads in the form of sniffles that have gotten too sniffly.
As I’m stripping the boys out of their wet clothes, I’m reflecting on where I have gone wrong. Less than twenty feet away are hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in toys. These toys go mostly unused and occupy valuable real estate in our house. A garden hose and a slightly inflated water bill would save so much money. I wrap the towel around Carson and pull him close to kiss his forehead. In this moment, I realize he and his siblings are worth every penny and chide myself for thinking a simple water table could replace all those toys.
Grant snuggles into the towel and Carson pulls the door to go inside. Over his shoulder he asks,”Dad, can we get in the shower?”