My brother had a collection of magic tricks. He kept them in a large, worn orange box about the size used for cakes. It was deep and had tape on the corners of the lid to hold it together. It was forbidden for any of us to go in it. So of course I did.
He was 10 years older than me, so when I started exploring our garage loaded with discarded junk, he was out and about with his friends playing basketball or baseball or riding bikes. I remember seeing all the brightly colored objects in that box: fans with colored panels that broke apart when you opened it, a long multi-colored scarf, red spongy balls and peach colored cups, a silver palm buzzer, a little blue box with a cube inside with colored circles on each face. My favorite toy was the small guillotine for a thumb. I never knew how my brother cut his thumb off with that. But he did. I saw it for myself when he pulled the tip of his thumb away from his hand with his other hand.
My family encouraged all of our hobbies, and magic was one of them for my brother. When he moved out, I inherited most of his stuff, his comic books and baseball cards, his magic set and marionettes. Or rather, they stayed in the garage and I played with them frequently.
My parents were occasionally invited to the Magic Castle in Hollywood. My understanding is that it was a private club and could be attended by invitation only by someone who belonged to the club. They went for my great grandmother’s birthday one year. She was a short, stopped woman, who drank a lot of tea and smoked a lot of cigarettes. She didn’t like us kids at all. The only people she really liked were my mom, her oldest granddaughter, and my dad. We had added a room onto our house for her as she got older and infirm. She had jet black hair into her 80s, which made my sister think she was a Native American. Her name was Grandma Wurm.
When they went to the Magic Castle, they sat at a bar and had drinks. Ever so slowly, the barstool she sat on lowered itself nearer the floor, so that after a few drinks, she was reaching up at arm’s length to reach her drink on top of the bar. My dad got a big kick out of that in retelling the trick.
I learned to do a few magic tricks over the years, pulling quarters from kids ears, palming ping pong balls, and guessing cards from a stacked deck.
I’m not sure what happened to the box of magic tricks. It was probably donated when we cleaned my mother’s house after she died, or more likely it had been sold at a garage sale years before.
I still see that orange box in my mind, the color of an orange, but faded with pieces of cardboard showing through at the corners. In my mind’s eye, magic will live forever.