Magic Pockets: The Little Joys We Bring Our Kids

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When I was three, my favorite dress was “the dress with the magic pockets.”

It was homemade -- of course -- in a cotton print, and my sister had a matching one. Each dress had two patch pockets, and every time my mother dressed me in it, I would find a marshmallow in one of the pockets. This delighted me, I think, more than it did Susan; I had an insatiable sweet tooth. If someone had set a whole bag of Jet-Puffeds in front of me and told me to have as many as I wanted, I would have thought I’d entered a parallel universe of unmitigated pleasure. My family simply did not indulge in such excesses, perhaps because we are from old New England stock, with its mix of asceticism and a stiff-backed sense of propriety -- perhaps because my parents couldn’t afford it. But whatever the reason, a pocket with a marshmallow in it was my idea of the best magic in the world.

Sadly, I did not get to wear the dress every day. But after a few outings in it (well-spaced by matters of weeks, probably), I figured out a way to beat the system. I have a vivid memory of looking up into my closet at a row of dresses hung neatly above my head, of quickly locating the right one, and, knowing what I’d find, plunging my hand into the pocket. No marshmallow. Undaunted, I reached into the other pocket. Empty.

Something was obviously terribly wrong. Apparently, the dress was not quite as magic as it was purported to be. I do not think I admitted to my disappointing discovery, because it would make me look like an ungrateful glutton. I suffered in silence.

The next time my mother took the dresses out of the closet for me and my sister to wear, I reached into the pockets, my belief wavering -- but my fingers touched the smooth, soft surface of the puffy nugget of delight. I think it’s then that I began to suspect that my mother was behind the magic in the dress with the magic pockets. But I didn’t mind. Magic was magic was a marshmallow.

Given this family history, I shouldn’t have been surprised last week by the reception of the inaugural appearance of magic pockets in my own home.

It is ridiculously easy to slip, unnoticed, a marshmallow -- even a large one -- into the pockets of a toddler and a preschooler. The look on Mbot’s face when he found his was one of disbelief and delight. Then Gbot started patting his own pockets -- his reaction was more “it’s about time I found it.”

Secret Pocket, 3 of 3

I enjoyed a moment of mommy triumph in seeing a silly tradition that I remember loving coming full circle. Until ten minutes later, when it really did come full circle.

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