In Those Days There Was Magic

An Editor’s Note About the Old Days:

There is a difference between magic and delusion. In the old days, we kids experienced magic, wonder. There was no TV, laptops, no IPhones, no video games. So, we had time to explore the world. Those lucky enough to have bikes rode them to where someone said there was a huge ant hill or some birds’ eggs in the grass. Those without bikes played tag or hide & seek, or jumped rope.

When I was about six or seven, my parents and I lived in a neighborhood filled with huge old houses. It was a changing place. Some houses were still occupied by the original families. Some were converted into apartments or rooming houses. Some were empty. The once opulent but still well off mingled every Sunday at the farmers’ market with the poor working families. You had to mingle if you wanted to hear, and even discuss, the news of the neighborhood.

One day, one of the kids breathlessly brought the news that the front door of one of the big houses up on the hill was wide open and inside, on one of the walls of the huge front room was a movie screen alive with a Laurel and Hardy movie. Without thinking twice, we all dashed up the hill and made ourselves at home, sitting on the clean polished wood floor watching the movie.  There was no furniture or other obstructions. But soon it was time to go home. The rule was immutable for all of us: home in time for dinner.

There was no schedule or rhyme or reason. We just knew that once in a while the front door of the big house was open, the floor was shinny and spotless, and the Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy movies were playing. Some of us told our parents about it. The response was always, “Oh, that old house is empty. Nobody lives there.”

Since nobody stayed past time for dinner, nobody ever knew when the movies stopped. We just knew they must have stopped at some time because the door was closed the next day.

No one questioned the strangeness of the situation. No one feared or investigated. For all everyone knew, it was magic, and that was that.

Little girls jumping rope