Children remember magic moments from their childhoods without necessarily remembering the circumstances that created them. Events, secrets and experiences live on mysteriously and half-understood in their memories, often forever – without ever being explained either because they never think to ask about them or because the people who could answer aren’t there to tell.
After my sister Lucy’s wedding in 1997, she and her new husband drove to their reception in a white stretch limousine. For the children in attendance, the limo was as important (if not more so) as the bride and groom and they stood around it longingly as the bridal party processed into the tent for the toasts, the speeches and the dancing.
Enter Uncle Tom. My brother-in-law. Purveyor of Magic and the favourite of children everywhere.
Tom is pretty famous in every family he has even a remote connection to. As the favourite. The best uncle, the best brother, the best brother-in-law . . . you name it. He’s not only fun, smart, talented and handsome. He’s magic. He also loves ice cream. And limousines.
Well, who doesn’t?
So that day, Lucy’s Wedding Day, Tom persuaded the Limo Driver to take those eager children for a ride. “Just around the block,” was how he put it. But then he remembered how much he loved ice cream.
So he asked the driver to go via the Somerset Creamery – our town’s best ice cream store. The driver was as charmed by Tom as all of us always are. He agreed (though it was three miles away and there was a lot of traffic).
The kids came back to the wedding with ice cream cones and memories of magic. Filed away. Different from anything else that happened that afternoon or evening. But filed away.
Fast forward to 22 years later. 2019. This very week, one of those children who had been there at Lucy’s wedding that day came to visit us in Dehradun. Her father was Ravi’s roommate from his graduate student days. He and Lucy had a special relationship and she really wanted him to come to her wedding. He did too. And he brought his wife and his enchanting little girl who arrived in an adorable white dress and black patent leather shoes.
Elisabeth Greenberg was four years old in 1997. I still remember her dancing with her Daddy at Lucy’s wedding. When she came to visit us with her boyfriend Sam, the memories flowed.
I told her the story of how it was at the wedding that I last met her and then I reminded her about the limo and the ice cream run. Her face lit up. “I remember that!” she cried, eyes wide open. “I never knew where or how or even if it happened. Was the wedding outside? Was there a tent?” When I nodded, she went on excitedly. “It was like a dream . . .a whole bunch of us kids, my Dad and this really tall man. We climbed into an enormous, long white limo, with couches inside and mirrors everywhere and little bottles of Coke and water . . . .I couldn’t remember where it had happened or why until this moment. All I really remembered was the ice-cream. And it felt like magic.”
Like Uncle Tom, we adults have the power to be the magicians in children’s lives. Whether they remember the details or not, they remember the feeling. They remember that wishes can come true, that fairy godmothers and godfathers really exist and that you might actually go to a wedding where you don’t know a soul and end up with an ice cream cone in a white limo, driving down an avenue of dreams, possibilities and happy endings.
You just never know what memories you are creating. Be mindful. Remember.