Illustration by Kagan McLeod
The day our columnist saw an airborne Mary Poppins, she was astonished. Her 7-year-old? Not so much. And so the search began: to find a miracle they could both believe in.
Allow me to set the scene: It is one year ago, snow is falling, street vendors have stopped selling pretzels that are made God knows how and begun selling roasted chestnuts that are made God knows where. People are wearing ruby red and kelly green sweaters covered in reindeer appliqués, and I decide to kick off the 2009 holidays with a Broadway matinee of Mary Poppins. There are little girls who would be thrilled with a plan like this. My daughter, Julia, is not one of them. I explain that I used to love going to the theater with my mom. Blank stare. I explain that it will be fun and memorable and the start of a brand-new tradition. Rolling of eyes. I explain that we can eat McDonald's and buy a set of Pokémon cards immediately afterward. Bingo!
The show starts slow but becomes completely enchanting. At the end, Mary opens her umbrella and flies straight off the stage, up, up, up, until finally she is floating right in front of our balcony seats. The effect is jaw-dropping. "Look, honey!" I whisper, "Mary Poppins is suspended in midair!" My darling little 7-year-old glares at me as though I am certifiably insane and whispers back, "Mommy, that's an actress and I can see the strings."
All righty, then.
The time has come for a little hard-core mothering. I need to resurrect the feeling of wonder that salvages us from cynicism. I'm looking for leaps of faith and the element of surprise, and a trace of something that defies logic. "I don't care if the search takes all year; come next Christmas," I promise Julia, "I will find us at least one small miracle—no strings attached."
January: In a horribly misguided stab at whimsy, I decide to take Jules ice-skating. I have not actually been on skates for 36 years, but I assume it will come back to me, you know, like riding a bicycle...something I haven't done for 37 years.
I guess the doctor in the ER of St. Luke's–Roosevelt Hospital said it best when he handed me a pair of crutches, an ice pack, and a prescription for Percocet, and declared, "It's a miracle you didn't break anything." Not exactly the miracle of gliding majestically across the rink at Rockefeller Center as sparkly little snowflakes glisten on your eyelashes, but there's something to be said for colliding headfirst into a family of five hearty Midwesterners, bouncing off a concrete wall, and landing beneath a class of merciless third graders without receiving so much as a hairline fracture. My year of living miraculously is off to an excellent start.
February: Johannes (love of my life, father of my child, forgetter of Valentine's Day for more than a decade) brings home a dozen long-stem tulips and a caramel cupid on the 14th of the month. "My darling," I coo, "you remembered!" He mumbles something about how his firm belief that this holiday represents the commercialization of couplehood has been trumped by my firm belief that I "could probably use the heel of my hand to drive a person's nose straight through his brain."
We struggle, we annoy, we regroup, we stay open, we lie around, we watch MSNBC, we laugh, we hold hands, we buy pumpkin muffins, we get upset because somebody didn't seal the bag and now the pumpkin muffins are stale, and then we start all over again. Love is a battlefield, a many-splendored thing, a blessing, and a pain in the neck, but it is not a miracle. Two human beings managing to blend their lives together for 17 years—now, that's a miracle.
March: It happened at exactly ten after eight in the morning. I know because I had just completed my first "It's ten after eight in the morning, for God's sake! Brush your teeth and track down your shoes before Mommy has an aneurysm" shout-out of the day. I said a silent prayer, took a deep breath, stepped on the scale, and lo and behold, weighed four pounds and six ounces less than I had in weeks.
But I couldn't help wondering if this was a carbohydrate-induced hallucination. I mean, if I had really lost nearly five pounds without even trying, then why were the schools and the post offices and the New York Stock Exchange still open? Where was the parade through Times Square, the Anderson Cooper interview? We will never know, but around Casa Kogan, this incident is still referred to as the Miracle of the Fettuccine Eater.
April: I am folding laundry as the late, great Eva Cassidy sings "Danny Boy" over my crummy old JBL speakers. Her sound is crystalline and ethereal, seductive and soaring. I am amazed by the way three minutes and 41 seconds of music can leave a girl sobbing into a dish towel. Eva Cassidy's voice is about as miraculous as it gets.
May: Here comes the sun and cherry trees and open windows and linen skirts and iced cappuccinos that cost more than my father's first car. Spring is a miracle.
June: On June 2, Detroit Tiger Armando Galarraga was pitching a perfect game—a feat that's been accomplished exactly 20 times since 1880—and hot damn, it was gorgeous! The ball seemed to go faster than his arm, as if the laws of physics couldn't slow him down, when suddenly umpire Jim Joyce ruled Cleveland Indians runner Jason Donald safe, for what should have been the game's final out.
But Jason Donald was not safe, as Mr. Joyce realized after viewing the postgame replay. And then it happened: Joyce sincerely apologized, Galarraga graciously accepted, and Detroiters roared their approval. At a time in the world when nobody seems to be taking responsibility for anything, two incredibly decent men demonstrated compassion, civility, style, and a miraculous degree of integrity.
We Hear You!