The Workings of Magic
Surrounded by forces utterly beyond their control, children
automatically take up magic. This is something that doesn't need to
be explained or thought about; it's as instinctive in humans as nest-
building in birds. In its simplest, truest form, magic is performed as
a demonstration, to show the universe what's expected of it. If you
want it to rain, for example, you go out and sprinkle things with
water. If you want it to stop raining, on the other hand, you make
a fire and start drying things out.
The condition around me was this: Neither one of my parents
seemed capable of understanding what the other wanted or needed.
Thelma couldn't seem to understand that “all Bert wanted” was a
quiet life—to come home night after night to the same house, to a
sober wife, to dinner on the table at six or six-thirty. But Bert was
no better in this regard; he couldn't seem to understand that Thelma
was incapable of doing what he wanted; she “needed” to clean the
house for ten or twelve hours every day and therefore “couldn't”
have dinner on the table before eight or nine o'clock—or even ten
o'clock on especially difficult days, when she might, for example,
decide to repaint the bathroom or the kitchen, without neglecting
a single one of her other, more usual chores.
Neither of them could see things from the other's point of view—
but I could. This was evident. I understood what Father wanted from
life. If I'd been my mother, I would have had the housework done
by five o'clock without fail. I would have had dinner ready by six.
On the other hand, I also understood what Mother wanted from life,
and if I'd been my father I wouldn't have expected her to have
dinner on the table at six or seven. I wouldn't have gotten angry if
she'd gone on working till nine or ten or even midnight. No way.
If I'd been my father, I would have been a perfect husband, seeing
everything from Thelma's point of view, and if I'd been my mother,
I would have been a perfect wife, seeing everything from Bert's
point of view.
But of course I couldn't be them or force them to behave the way
I wanted them to. I was in the same relation to them as the ancient
rainmaker was to the elements. All I could do was produce in
myself the effects I wanted my parents to manifest. All I could
do was make myself perfect, the way I wanted them to be.
That then was my magic, to be perfect. It didn't work, of course,
but no one in the whole history of the world ever quit on magic just
because it didn't work. Nobody in the whole history of the world
ever quit on anything just because it didn't work—magic, science,
politics, love, religion. But especially magic. To give up on magic
because it doesn't work would be silly. If it doesn't work, that just
means you didn't do it right. That's how you tell you didn't do it
right—when it doesn't work.
Anyone knows that.