Magical Thinking

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To the owners of the house around the corner with the over-the-top holiday decorations, I just want to say: Thank you.

Depending on one's stance on Russian election interference, border walls and fake news, this hasn't been the easiest holiday season. Then, yesterday, my children and I stumbled upon your house.

From down the block, my 4-year-old spotted the plastic reindeer leaping off your roof. Her first worried question: "Where's Rudolph?" Then, she recognized the lead reindeer's blinking red nose. She and her two-year old brother burst into an exuberant, some-words-missing version of "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer."

They admired your giant candy canes.

They gazed lovingly at Santa.


They sang again.

I pointed to the tiny door you'd stuck on a tree, complete with tiny lights and tiny walkway. "An elf lives there," I told them. They crouched down and stared at this ordinary tree, suddenly transformed into a miniature home.

As a child, I believed in magic. My family is Jewish, but I still waited up on Christmas Eve to see if I could catch Santa filling our Shalom stockings with Hanukkah gelt. Santa always waited until I wasn't looking. For the record, that's not an actual Jewish tradition.

Then I hit middle school, and skepticism invaded. I penned a column in the school paper decrying the commercialization of the winter holidays. My poor mother was aghast at my 13-year-old's cynicism.

By high school, I bought back into the idea that this was a good time of year to lift up your own kindness and generosity, to be a better friend and a better neighbor.

Yesterday, listening to my kids belt out carols as they gazed at your plastic reindeer, I realized the importance of something else: magic. At the darkest moment of the year, magic helps us imagine a world we want to believe exists somewhere, a future that still might unfurl, something hopeful waiting just out of sight.

With a Perspective, I'm Jocelyn Wiener.

Jocelyn Wiener is a journalist living in Oakland.