“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
For all the immaculate planning and preparation that goes into Christmas, it’s the moments of spontaneity that we remember. I like to think that the general bedrock of fond memories is created in those hours spent by people wrapping and choosing, basting and hanging, sticking and arranging and all the other verbs that go into making Christmas special. It’s because of that that some of us are lucky to have the general lovely, festive ‘glow’ all around us for a few days. But the memories – those clear moments we can recall at the drop of a hat – are so often those things that happen unexpectedly. It can be anything; maybe somebody struggling at charades for five minutes before screaming “Well how would YOU do Poirot!?” in frustration, an unexpected visit from a loved one you never expected to see, a blown fuse leading to people having to talk rather than watch TV, anything really.
One of my strongest Christmas memories comes from that time just before the 25th of December. That time when people are hanging decorations and trying to prioritise the many Christmas obligations that crop up. The tree was up and presents were under it. It was picture perfect not least because I’ve got something of an obsessive approach to wrapping presents. Still, it was nice to go to bed enjoying the warm glow that comes from a cosy job well done.
Coming down the stairs the next day it was something of a surprise to find the scene changed somewhat. The little cat, Bramble Bear, who was always most fastidious about covering his litter tray, had decided to try dragging a few of the handy boxes covered in paper over. This was a slight surprise, but not totally out of the blue. Bramble would often claw at any nearby paper to cover his tray, but even by his standards, trying to drag several presents across the whole of the front room was something of an accomplishment. So, wrapping paper was shredded and a mess was made, but the mental visual of this little cat, determinedly using his paws and claws to try and cover up his already buried mess was just too funny. The effort he had gone to just tickled me that morning. And so a little tray with added wrapping paper and the re-wrapping of a few presents is now part of the warm tableaux that is for me my Christmas’ past.
We remember the unexpected. We remember the unusual. That is to me a self-evident truth, and also a key aspect of my magic. No one is surprised when I find their card. Why would they be? I’ve introduced myself as a magician, finding their card when I’m shuffling the pack all the time is hardly an achievement. But what if I don’t shuffle the pack? Better still, what if I don’t touch the pack? Best of all, what if I don’t even us a pack? Difference and confounding expectation if where a magician stops being a skilled trickster, and instead becomes magical. As we progress in our craft it becomes easier and easier to get almost seduced by clever tricks, showing off how good we are at this move or that method, but it’s always vital to remember WHY we develop those skills. For me, it’s that rare moment when an adult forgets themselves and, for a split second, they believe the impossible. They believe magic exists.
I hope that you and those you love enjoy a very Merry Christmas, however you might celebrate.
Bramble Bear had to leave us a few weeks past, after touching the heart of everyone he met. He made my life better, he made my Christmas’ better, and so I hope you don’t mind indulging me as I take this moment to remember him.