Amongst the various hobbies, fictional worlds, and pastimes I enjoy, there’s magic as entertainment. Sometimes I wonder if it’s in the blood, for I’m told that my grandmother’s grandfather was a vaudeville magician somewhere in England, or perhaps a ventriloquist. Or both. It’s something I would dearly love to research one day, but I’m not sure how far I would get — my great-grandfather was sent to Canada as a “home child” and it’s hard to say whether any records exist regarding his parentage. What my mother and I do know is that he had brought with him a photograph of his father pulling a rabbit out of a top hat, and that the photo was torn in pieces by my great-aunt when she was just a toddler.
I used to try performing magic tricks when I was a kid. At twelve years old, for a talent show performed at the local retirement home, I devised a short routine involving pouring water into a newspaper and making a soft toy duck appear in a saucepan after I’d cracked eggs into it. I am the first to admit that I wasn’t very good, but I remember one lady’s delighted laugh at my trick. I wanted to learn more — to do card tricks, and how to do the thing with the adjoining rings. I learned about certain illusions, and the importance of palming objects, but I got frustrated with my slippery hands and didn’t know to look for a mentor for help.
But my interest in magic as entertainment never went away. I loved watching David Copperfield, and recently, Wizard Wars has gotten my attention, as well as that of my own family. It’s the process of performing the illusion seamlessly, along with patter and presentation, that I enjoy the most. Sure, it’s fun trying to figure out how someone did a trick, but I also kind of feel like that takes the joy out of it. Magic isn’t necessarily meant to be deconstructed: it’s meant to marvel, to take the breath away, to remind us that there’s more to life than the mundane.
It would be cool to relearn some signature tricks, to start building a collection of illusions again. Once in a while I have the urge to pick up one of those “special” decks of cards and study how to force a selection. I adore those episodes of HIMYM when Neil Patrick Harris gets to show off his prowess, and when a professional is in town, I do try to see the performance live. A hypnotist is performing this week at our school, actually, as a fundraiser, and I’m looking forward to that as well.
The trouble is that doing magic tricks properly requires having the time and patience to perfect the routine. So if I want to take it back up as a hobby, I need to build that in on top of everything else. And I’m still meaning to learn to play my guitar — as well as putting my daughter in lessons, because she wants to learn to play too — as well as getting back into my quilting and cross-stitching. I stopped knitting for a bit because I found I was letting it get in the way of other work that needed doing (read: I was using the knitting to procrastinate), but I am back at it again in order to combat the constant urge to pick at my nails and cuticles. Thankfully, my plot to force myself to get outside and be active at least once a week has been a success: having invested the money in the family membership and ski instruction for Bridget, I have a visible incentive leaning against my piano in the form of our skis, and attached to my coat as a tow pass badge, plus a reminder on my calendar that we are expected on the hill on Saturday afternoons.
I think, for myself, if I want to get back into magic (or if my kids do as well), I need to find someone to teach me/us. And we need to schedule the lessons in. I do much better with timelines and needing to be somewhere than when I’m left on my own devices to drift.
So, new goal: In addition to promoting my upcoming novel (and other writings), keeping up with extracurricular and volunteer work, completing various handicraft projects, learning to play actual chords on the guitar, and the rest of it, I will pick one magic trick to learn and master by the time the year is out. Sweeping declaration! I will be a magician again!