CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: ARMIST

HED:The wonderful magic of loving and being loved

By John Armistead

Daily Journal

@sc: Nemo gave a party at his place the other night so everyone could meet his cousin Eliwila. His grandmother, Elvira Steinwither, to the surprise of all of us, was on her feet moving around serving people. The arrival of a great-niece she'd never seen, she said, was the best medicine ever.

When I got there, Eliwila was sitting on the couch surrounded by folks. She has a great laugh and dark eyes which seem have a mischievous flicker.

Pau Hana was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of her, his eyes wide with something of a dumbstruck look. Nemo told me that Pau has been over every day since she arrived. He's ecstatic about having someone not only from Hawaii but from his very own island here in town.

Mrs. Steinwither handed me a Coke. "It's just like a luau, isn't it?" she asked.

Pharis Aical stepped up beside me. "You reckon she still worships the old heathen gods of the Polynesian peoples?" he whispered to me. "You know, with human sacrifice and all that?"

I shook my head gravely. "Worst than that according to Nemo," I said. "She's become a Baptist like us."

He looked a bit confused as I turned to move closer so I could hear what Eliwila was talking about.

"I saw 'To Kill a Mockingbird' once," she said, "and that's about all I know about the South. And it was in black and white, of course. That's probably not the complete story."

"If you don't mind me saying so," said Phil Istine to her, "your English is amazingly good."

She laughed, then said, "Thank you. And it better be since it's the only language I speak."

He looked confused and took a long swallow of his Diet Coke.

"Do you sing?" asked Sissy. She was sitting on one side of Eliwila. "Maybe you'd like to sing in the Franklin Graham crusade with us?"

"Sissy is in the mass choir," Bubba Voltaire explained. "It starts Sunday night."

"Listen, listen," said Nemo holding out a bowl of potato chips to Gertrude, who was on Eliwila's other side. "They got this magician at the crusade Saturday morning. He's the one I want to see."

"He's not a magician," said Pharis. "He's an illusionist."

Nemo's brow furrowed. "What's that?"

"He does tricks with top hats and rabbits, I think. You know. Sleight of hand."

"Sounds suspiciously like a magician," said Dio Genes with a chuckle.

Pharis's neck was getting red. "Magicians dabble in the satanic stuff," he said. "They're evil."

"Then an illusionist is a Christian magician?" asked Dio.

"I don't care what y'all call him," Nemo said. "I hear he's great and I want to see him."

"I think that's a children's thing," Gertrude said. "Isn't it?"

"Except you become like children, you can't see the kingdom of God," Bubba said softly.

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then, Eliwila said, "What exactly does that mean?"

"Maybe it means you have to still be able to sense the magic in things," said Mrs. Steinwither. She set a bowl of onion dip on the coffee table in front of the couch. "Like the smell of daffodils and talcum powder, how dew sparkles on the grass and a baby's hand looks clasping its daddy's finger."

Eliwila grinned big. "And how it feels to be instantly loved by someone you've never even met . . ." Her voice trailed off a bit. She was looking at Nemo.

He flushed at once and held out his bowl to everyone in general. "Who'd like another potato chip?" he asked.

John Armistead is Daily Journal religion editor.

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