12 Epiphanies

vii. We have a need for magic.

Early one morning, when taking the recycling to the shoot, Kate found a stack of brightly colored storage boxes beside waist-height figurines of a nutcracker and snowman beneath the bulletin board in the foyer on her floor. A note on the board read:

Need some cheer? We were going to toss these out, but thought someone might have use for them! If you need some Christmas spirit, help yourself!

–Your neighbor

A big arrow drawn in wide red felt-tipped pen pointed at the storage boxes and statues.

Kate looked around, saw no one, and lugged three of the boxes, the nutcracker, and the snowman back into her apartment.

She found shiny glass ornaments that looked like they dated back to the 1940s, the kind her grandparents had on their tree when she was a little girl. She hadn’t decided if she’d set up a tree, but these would sparkle in a bowl.

A paper chain smelled like elementary school–that closed-in stuffiness of old paper, paste, and rubber cement. She felt flooded with contentedness. How funny that the memory of a smell could bring her back like that, to a feeling of home, of childhood? Of carols and excitement?

Untangling the string of lights, Kate felt her mind settle. Her mind was like this–little spots that lit up when fired, and connections that sometimes grew twisted and tangled. What strange things we are, people, with such complicated pathways within us! And how magical, really, when these pathways become clear, the synapses fire, and we light up from within!

We were made to do things! To create beauty! To appreciate! Even if Kate were the only one who would see the decorations in her home, the simple act of taking out each decoration from the box, appreciating it, loving it, and finding a place for it, that, in and of itself, was enough. That was joy. There was something magical in it.

She had a tiny corner of loneliness, still. But she also had much more. Candles sparkled from her table. The giant nutcracker watched, as if he would keep her from feeling too alone.

And she had time. She had weeks off from work. She had time to do the things that she couldn’t during the busy year. She could remember, for example. She could wonder at the flicker of light from the candles. She could feel gratitude towards her unknown neighbor for the kind gesture of sharing the boxes of decorations. She could speculate about whose hands, tiny or large, had glued together the strips of paper that made the chain hanging above her head.

It was still early in the day after she’d finished decorating. She sat at her keyboard, something she hadn’t done in many a month. She played Bach first, for every practice should begin with a prelude, and before she finished, her mind was completely untangled and lit up. Her fingers found their ways to carols, and the apartment filled with magic.

There is something that we need, to be fully human, and it has something to do with magic; and music, sparkles, and bright decorations sometimes fill that need.

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