My daughter walks over to me. I’m still lying in our hammock. When she reaches me, I slide over and sit in the hammock sideways, gesture with a head nod, wordlessly asking her if she wants to join me. She doesn’t of course. This is how it starts. It’s always the same. She walks over, no words, I ask her to sit (with no words), she declines. Then she pulls the scarf from her head; her red hair falls around her neck and shoulders. She gestures like some vaudeville magician, carefully showing me both sides of her navy-blue silk scarf. Next, she dangles the scarf with two fingers while she uses two fingers from her other hand to grasp at the silk and pull it slowly through her fingers. She repeats this gesture. The subtext here is ‘look, there’s nothing contained within the folds of my scarf.’ Still part of the ritual; always the same. Next, with impeccable timing, she again grasps the silk by two corners, quickly shows me the front and back several times. Finally, she extends one hand under the silk and lets the material parachute, slowly settling over her little palm, her little fingers discernible through the silk. The other hand emerges and she shows me both sides of this hand too while cheekily grinning at me. That hand then grasps one corner of the silk and I feel my chest tighten as my eyes go wide. This is rapture for me. She quickly pulls the silk aside and in the center of her little palm, where it has no logical reason or right for being, is a red delicious apple; a big juicy one. A little bigger than the one she produced last time if my memory serves.
I notice I am again holding my breath as I balance on the razor’s edge between wanting her to perform flawlessly again and fearing she might slip up and not.
I gasp aloud. Always the ritual but it always feels like the first time and I’m always amazed. Early on I spent a little time trying to figure out how she did it, even asked her about it once. I gradually decided I preferred not knowing. Especially since she was apparently okay with repeating the miracle for me from time to time. Her performances always come with uncannily good timing; just when I need a boost, a pick me up. And she only does this trick for me. Never for Victoria. Charlie loves her mother of course. And for all I know, they probably have rituals of their own that are only theirs. I don’t ask. I hope they do but I don’t ask. Still Victoria, I think, gets a little jealous of our ‘apples.’ A husband can tell these things. Like I said, I don’t ask or want to know about whatever it is they share between them just in case I would feel excluded from what was theirs.
” … in the center of her little palm, where it has no logical reason or right for being, is a red delicious apple … “
The ritual complete she shoves the silk into a back pocket of over her little blue overalls. She raises her arms and I lift her up and set her in the hammock to my right. We settle back. The ritual continues. My soul is soaring and bursting with happiness and love.
She hands me the apple and I rub it briskly with my shirtsleeve. Examine it, then rub it once more for good measure. My initial part of the ritual complete, I hand the apple back to Charlie.
She gestures with a “cheers” like gesture with it and raises it to her mouth; opening wide she takes as big a bite as she can manage. She chews contentedly and passes the apple back to me. I ‘toast’ the apple to her in return (always just once and always during the first bite only). I take a bite and savor the juice, taste, texture and another personalized performance from my daughter the master magician.
I pass the apple back to Charlie, she bites, chews, passes it back. Over and over again we repeat this until the apple is consumed. When it gets smaller, we have to take careful little nibbles from the emerging apple core. I always strive to let her have the last bite. I don’t know why. We never discuss the ritual afterwards.
The entire ceremony is usually ten minutes start to finish. And, so far, I’ve never been able to find any ten minute period of anything that makes me happier or enjoy more. I’ve searched, I still search. But now, I don’t search quite so hard.
When we are done with the apple I carefully lower the core to the ground. Then we lean against the other and sway back and forth in the hammock with my arm draped over her bony little shoulder. No words. Always in the hammock and always spontaneous. Spontaneous from my perspective that is. And I would never to anything so gauche as to ‘request’ a performance, yet somehow always delivered when I need it most.
Dozens of times, she’s performed her little miracle for me. Each time I’m as fooled as I am filled with love. I have no desire to uncover her mystery. The apples belong to her and I alone and I respect her far too much to try to dispel her illusion. It’s her illusion, not mine.
Well if nothing else dear daughter, considering her future job prospects, you can always work as a magician, I think.
She looks like she might produce an apple today. She does not produce an apple today. We sit quietly in our tiny hammock, not eating the apple that she did not produce. I really thought she might have today, but she didn’t.
The next day of course, well, you know the rest of course. I can never see an apple and not remember our time together in our little hammock.
Excerpted from my unpublished novel Rocket Man.