One summer, I finally convinced my mom to let me take the "fun" classes at the town's camp, a weekday morning summer school organized by elementary school teachers and hobbyists. I was done spending my summers in "Introductory French" or "vocabulary building." No, this summer, I wanted to take a drama class and a magic class.
It was going to be awesome. A whole morning of fun, three days a week, for six weeks. I was especially excited for the magic class . Knowing secrets and discovering the mysteries behind the flourishes were intoxicating. This was going to be the best class ever.
Ironically, I remember nothing about what I learned that summer. I don't remember any acting techniques or any particular magic tricks. What I remember, however, was a lesson more important than any sleight of hand.
On the first day of magic class, the teacher spent some time showing us his decks of cards, his magic dice, his handkerchiefs and other various accessories. "I will teach you everything I can," he said in his deep, mysterious voice. "But I only have one rule. When you see me show you a trick, never say, 'I know how you did that.' First of all, you probably don't. Secondly, when you say that, you ruin the magic for everyone around you. And that's what magic is; wonder. Don't steal someone else's wonder."
Everyone nodded, not really listening, thrilled to have been let into his secret world. We all looked on in amazement as he showed us trick after trick, eager to learn how they were done. We kept our mouths shut and our eyes wide open.
And then, in the second week, our teacher told us it was "mind-reading" day. He was going to show us how to mind read! It was a dream come true. Finally! This trick was why I was taking the class. I already knew some card tricks, some sleight of hand, but mind reading? That was definitely the next level. I imagined myself surprising person after person after I deftly read their mind. Everyone was going to be astonished at my newly acquired skills.
Our teacher sent a student out of the room and when she came back, guessed the number she'd been thinking. I was awestruck. How did he do that?? I was biting my lips with anticipation; when was he going to tell us the secret? On the edge of my seat, I was ready to learn.
And then it happened. "I know how you did that!" came a sharp voice from the back of the room. I turned sharply and looked at her. She was small, with a blonde ponytail. Didn't she remember his warning? Why did she say that? And then I looked at our teacher, who had gone quiet. Maybe it wasn't a big deal. Surely, he won't remember his rule. Maybe he didn't really mean it. He wouldn't punish all of us for this girl's impulsiveness. Would he?
He looked around.
"You do? Well, then I guess we don't need to continue." His face seemed to shut down.
"No!" came the cries. "We don't know! Tell us, please!"
She apologized too. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean it. It just came out. Tell us!"
I joined in too; we begged him to go back on his word.
But he didn't budge. He was finished. We'd stolen his wonder and now, the lesson was over.
He never did tell us the secret and the class was never the same after that day. At first, I was livid. At her, at him, at everyone who prevented me from getting what I came for. But then, as time ticked by, I realized the lesson he'd been trying to teach.
It's never about the trick or the sleight of hand. It's about allowing yourself to let go, to enjoy, to be innocent once again. Because once the innocence is gone, and the jaded face of experience rears its cynical head, well, then the magic is gone too. We hurt his feelings. We made the magic disappear. So now, I try to remember his lessons. When a child is discovering something for the very first time, they are living inside magic. It's our job to help them stay there and if we want, to visit that place too. It's a special place, a beautiful place and it's exclusive; open only to those who allow themselves to believe.
Sarahlynne is a Parenting Guru and working on a novel for young adults.