We experienced a miracle the other day. It had to do with toys.

As is the case with so many miracles, there was at first a low point, a motivating event that preceded the improbable outcome.

As background, it’s important to understand that my youngest has never met a toy he didn’t like. Well, except for boring wooden ones, the kind that might actually look attractive lying around in a room. Those are useless. Give him plastic! The brighter, the better! In the mold of all his favorite cartoon franchises! And let him blanket the carpets in every room with them! See: doesn’t that look nice?

As further background, it’s even more important to understand that, to date, my son hasn’t permanently lost interest in any one toy grouping. He just cycles through them, on an endless loop. It’s Mario for a while, and then Cars, and then Blaze, then the perennially infernal Paw Patrol. And then repeat.

So now and again, without natural attrition built into the system, we create it. We send toys to limbo. We pack a bin and put it in the basement, with hopes it will be semi-forgotten or at least not too terribly missed. And then, after a proper cooling-off period, we donate the toys to other kids deranged by Paw Patrol. Our own kind of defunding.

My son has an encyclopedic command of his collections so, recently, when a large percentage of his Paw Patrol pup population went missing, he did notice. But he didn’t complain, exactly. He accepted that the toys had left, the circumstances of their leaving unknown, but presumably something to do with their free will because while my son knows his toys to be toys, he believes them to be alive. He talks to them and expects answers. He asks them what they did while he was at school. He tells them goodnight.

If they don’t answer, he asks our house — which he considers omniscient as it sees everything we do — the same questions.

But as this batch of toys’ missing persisted, my son crafted a surprising and much darker explanation. The pups hadn’t just left. They weren’t just missing or donated. They were dead. They had been killed by the Sun.

It’s a cognitive ramification to at some point learn that life is hard and unfair and terminal. And it’s developmentally appropriate. But we’ve not much discussed death with my son. He is running on a timetable all his own, a different one than that of his typically-developing peers. And we’ve been lucky — we haven’t yet had to explain a loss to him. So far, life has let us keep its worst secret.

So while most kids know about death and its horror and permanence by thirteen, my son hasn’t really caught wind of this construct. Sure, when I stop him from walking directly into cars moving in a parking lot, he says, “Yeah, because I don’t want to die.” But he says it lightly, as if it would be an outcome without lasting implications and is more like a nuisance preferably avoided. I wouldn’t want to trip. I’d rather not be late. I wouldn’t want to drop my ice cream cone.

When I was around my son’s age, I got unlucky, and my grandmother did die, suddenly and too young. It was unbelievably sad, and by this I mean it was unbelievable. I could not square the loss of someone so vibrant, so critical to my life.

This was before the internet and cell phones. I couldn’t GPS locate her and news traveled much slower. I felt it couldn’t be ruled out that she was still alive, just somewhere else. I mean had anyone checked India? What if she was suddenly just there teaching some other little girl macrame and sneaking her Snickers? I imagined her there. I imagined she might find a way back to me.

I was old enough to know this kind of magic probably didn’t exist, but I was young enough to cling to the hope it could. Besides, I’d been to CCD and weekly masses. I’d learned that, above all else, resurrections required belief.

Now, raising my son, I wonder about a life where this kind of thinking feels sustainable, where magic can meet the needs of the present without compromising the abilities of the future.

I mean what if you had a kid you didn’t need to tell every single ugly thing about the world?

Where’s the line between what’s important to understand about being human and letting an exceptional little human believe beautiful things?

I’m always looking for it.

Or trying to draw it.

Usually in pencil, taking note of how my son is fitting the world together and erring on the side of magic.

But maybe this interpretation paints me too generously, and I should disclose my previous record on similar matters.

At the depth of my youngest’s seizure disorder, my older kids had an upcoming Blessing of the Animals at their small Episcopal school. I’d gone to public school where we religiously pledged allegiance, but would never have pushed into the realm of blessings for animals or anything else other than the football team. And I’d grown up Catholic, a belief system that didn’t seem all that interested in beings as trivial and non-tithing as pets.

So I had no context. Also, at the time of this school event, our family had no pets. But the kids sure did wish they had a cute little dog for this benediction. Because everyone else did. They were the only petless children in the entire school (also world). Since I was temporarily [TBD] insane at the time, I believed them. I believed this counted as suffering. And I didn’t want them to be the only kids in the whole school or world without the love of a would-be holy pet.

So we went and we bought fish. Betta fish. Four of them. Could four fish equal one dog? Never. But since fish kinda suck as pets go, each of the kids would have their own. They wouldn’t have a pet that fetched or snuggled, but they wouldn’t have to share.

Betta fish are mean as snakes Betta fish, and readily eat each other, so we needed four separate homes for our four separate fish. We bought small containers for each that were rectangular and could stack, such that the fish, once at home and on the counter, looked as if they lived in a watery apartment complex.

At first it seemed these pets might just do the trick. What a bunch of suckers dog owners were! All that work! Meanwhile, here was reward! These pets needed minimal care, and threaded an impossible needle for a house loud with small children: they were extremely quiet, but still distracting. Truly, they were mesmerizing to watch for minutes at a time.

My younger daughter’s fish was dead within a day, its feathery fins hanging limp from its very still body as I came down to pack lunches in the morning.

So I did what any mother of small children who didn’t feel like talking about Big Stuff just yet: I rushed to the Tropical Fish Store and bought a replacement fish. It looked only somewhat similar to the deceased. I hoped my daughter wouldn’t notice, and she didn’t.

But her older brother and sister did.

Within a week of the blessing, as if they’d mistakenly been read last rites, every tenant in our fish high rise was dead, including the fresher replacement fish. There hadn’t been any real disparity of care. I guess if nothing else, this mortality rate suggested we were incredibly consistent as terrible rearers of fish.

This all would’ve been fine, because again, fish kinda suck as pets and so one mourns accordingly. But, the newer fish did live the longest, and my younger daughter, finally perceiving a leg up on her older siblings, would not let them forget it.

Again, due to Big Stuff Avoidance, we swore the two oldest to secrecy. They would have to bite their tongues and just let their little sister gloat about what she believed to be her narrowly-more enduring fish.

We let this secret stand for years. The keeping of it caused my older son to near-implode regularly. Any time his little sister got on his nerves, which is probably just another way of saying hourly, he begged “Can I please tell her now?”

The answer was no. For a decade. Until one night during the pandemic when we’d run out of anything else to talk about in our constant togetherness. Everyone was older, the statute of limitations expired. We broke the not-news to my younger daughter: her fish had died first. And something that would’ve once bothered her deeply was now just a funny story helping us pass another long night.

I tell you this as further testimony for avoidance and/or magical thinking. Take your pick.

I haven’t forgotten I promised you a miracle.

As my son’s death talk about his lost toys reached a fever pitch, it started to feel too creepy. I didn’t like it. And I began to think that less death talk was a preferable trade-off to more toys. So I did what any mother who is easily triggered by mortality-speak would do, and staged a resurrection.

We took the bin from the basement and scattered the lost pups and vehicles in the yard. I pretended to leave the house to run an errand and came rushing back in to tell my son something extraordinary had happened outside. He rushed back out with me and spotted the toys. He gasped, he shrieked, as witnesses to great phenomenons often do. He ran at the toys and started collecting them with frenzied Easter-egg energy.

“I can’t believe they’re ALIVE! My toys are ALIVE! The Sun GAVE THEM BACK! They AREN’T DEAD ANYMORE!”

He hauled his collection inside, joyously announcing this Return of Heroes to all the other concerned toys. He told the house about this most unlikely rising again.

And I, another witness, attested: this was a miracle.

“Good morning, Mommy!” It is the morning after the miracle, but this is not why my son is in a good mood. He just generally is. Days and life are packed with so much to like and love. What’s not to be happy about?

“Did you get married again last night?” As I’ve previously written, my son believes any time my husband and I put on non-sweatpant outfits and go out together that we are running off to get married. The night before we’d left the house to meet friends for dinner, both in jeans and sweaters.

“Yes, we did.” There is no downside to his romantic thinking.

“Great job!” he tells me, enthusiastically, congratulatory, as if he knows it’s not exactly easy to recommit yourself to the same person every Saturday night.

He checks in on the pups in the other room. All still alive. All still as he left them, standing in a big floor circle as if they’re at a wedding and the most outgoing among them will soon break into the center to solo dance. One has fallen and he rights her. A few others are at angles he must tweak. He will be at school all day. He doesn’t want them to feel uncomfortable while he’s gone.

When he’s satisfied, he returns to the kitchen.

“Mommy, did you know water has a memory?”

“Really? How does it have a memory?” This sounds familiar to me and I think it might not just be poetic; it might be true. But this is the equator we live at, the line between the hemisphere of the imagined and the hemisphere of the real. Add in my terrible memory and Lite Command™ of most facts, and it can be a disorienting place to be. It means I google a lot of what my son tells me.

“Because it is wet,” He is not wrong. Quick research fruits that this real idea hinges on substances dissolving in water and then the water retaining something of the substance, no matter how you try to dilute it.

But I sink into the poetry of it, the privilege of my equator life. I think of water remembering, all the things it’s ever felt and known.

The love taps of breaching whales, the tickle of windsurfers, the light scratch of sailboats, the deep muscle massage of cruise and carrier ships.

When it held a pudgy baby for the first time, delighting in its squeals, hoping its swimmy diaper would hold.

A stingray’s secret overheard. Something funny a dolphin said.

My thoughts float along. Does water scrapbook? I wonder. Or have a journal?

“Where did you learn that?” I resurface to ask.

“Frozen.” Of course.

Magic is everywhere when you look.

And it’s sustainable when you let it be.

This article was originally published at Medium. Republished with permission from the author.