Magic!

At Evelyn’s school there is a yearly talent showcase. This isn’t one of those “everybody gets a participation trophy” kind of things; this talent showcase is no joke, man. There are more kids than slots, so you’ve got to try out, and it is cut throat.

So naturally, Evelyn needs to be on that stage like a man needs to breathe.

She knew she wouldn’t cut it with piano, after all this show is already chock full of kids playing Tchaikovsky on the violin from memory, so she was forced to come up with a different plan. Evelyn being Evelyn, she started calculating: what was most likely to get her a spot on the stage? Music? Covered. Dancing? Yawners.

Evelyn’s answer? Magic.

Now, long time readers of the blog know that I tend to…collect hobbies. But what you might not realize is that, one of the very first hobbies I ever really got into, was magic. Don’t get me wrong, I was never tremendously *good* at it, but I did attack it with my usual penchant for intense research: buying various tricks, reading magic histories, practicing sleight of hand in front of a mirror. That sort of thing.

Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled with her choice!

Despite the fact that she hasn’t embraced magic the way I had all those years ago, I’d like to think I sent her down this road to begin with. I was so happy to practice with her and give her some tips. And, as with everything else Evelyn does, she took to it like a fish to water, practicing repeatedly until she had it down just perfect.

The main thing I tried to stress to her was that she needed to get good at “patter“.
Me: “Have you ever seen the other kids do magic tricks? What do they do when they’re doing the trick.”
Evelyn: “They just stand there, quietly.”

Nuh uh, not for my girl. I told her she had to tell a story. I told her she was performing, and was there to entertain. I told her any fool could do a trick, but the difference between a good magician and a bad magician was stage presence.

Well, you can judge for yourself how she did:

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Magical Daddy

When I was a kid, I used to *love* magic tricks. I read books about them, I watched tv programs about them, and I bought all types of things at stores, practicing into the wee hours of the morning. I wouldn’t say I ever got good at them, and certainly never really had the patience to truly master sleight of hand, but it was a hobby I enjoyed. Mostly I performed for my family. “Magic shows” were pretty common in our house, usually with me as the head magician, and either my brother or sister (or both) as my helpers.

For some reason I remembered all of this the other day, and managed to find all of my dime store props. It’s been probably 20 years since I looked at that stuff, but I really did goof around with it quite a bit back then, so I manged to get about 5 tricks I could perform without any practice, and I did a show for Evie and Oliver.

Well, right off the bat I learned that it is very easy to trick a 4 year old. Misdirection, the heart of any good trick, is comically simple. None of these tricks would have fooled an adult for even a second, especially with me performing them (so I thought, until I later performed the tricks for Sara and Uncle Ben, several times!). But with Evie? I was a genius. Tell a little story, a couple of flourishes with the wand, and shout “Magic Daddy!” Indeed, magic was performed.

After I finished blowing Evie’s mind, she insisted on doing all the tricks herself. She claimed that she had watched very carefully and knew how to do them all.

That’s when the fun started.

The first trick she really did get (it was that obvious), and the second one was fool proof, so that one worked as well, even though she didn’t understand how or why. The “mind reading” trick she happened to guess right twice in a row, completely convincing her that she had followed all of the steps correctly, and activated the magic. It was actually kind of heart breaking when she grinned at me and proudly proclaimed, “I have daddy’s magic too!”

Unfortunately, the next two tricks were not quite as simple. She couldn’t figure out how to master the shrinking card and the bank that makes coins appear in your pocket. She was so sure that it wasn’t working because she wasn’t saying the right magic word, or she was hitting the magic wand too many times. As if it was scientific somehow. She hit that bank so many times, she practically beat a hole in it, checking her pockets every few seconds to see if the coin had traveled there yet.

It was absolutely hilarious. I literally fell out of my seat I was laughing so hard. I convinced her that I wasn’t laughing at her, but she just couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. She saw what I did, and she did that too, so why didn’t the coin magically appear in her pocket?

Then I would get the coin out and say something like, “Oh, no wonder it’s not working, you didn’t look behind your ear!” She said, “OOOOoooohh!” and after that she kept checking her ears as well as her pockets. Then I would trigger the shrinking card when she wasn’t looking and say, “Why don’t you try it one more time?” Oh man. If her magic show would have went on for all eternity, I never would have gotten bored.

Even though the last two tricks weren’t successful, she came away from the whole thing absolutely convinced that she has magic, if for no other reason than because when she was attempting the “nails through the coin” trick, the coin shifted and one of the nails shot back out. “You see? I actually have MORE magic than you, daddy, because I made the nail go flying!” She told me this repeatedly, probably 3 or 4 times.

I kept telling her it was tricks, not really magic, but she definitely didn’t believe me. Maybe she started to by the end, especially after she cried and forced me to reveal that the coin hadn’t really been behind her ear. On one hand, there’s no reason to ruin her sense of wonder about magic. On the other hand, she was really bummed that I could do magic and she couldn’t. I think she looks up to me plenty; I don’t need her to think I have magic powers as well.

All in all though, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good time with Evie. (Oliver could care less about the whole thing, and pretty soon was just playing with the doll house.) It was an absolute blast. It’s hard not to enjoy doing magic tricks with such an easy, adoring audience. Thank you paper route money spent 20 years ago!