Gack calls up the stairs: ‘Gol. Gol.’ My time at the computer screen is over for now. Work plans are suspended: Gack is calling. Downstairs, he putters around in the garden and, when he sees me, I kneel down – but he scoots straight off to the shed door, scratching at it like a cat! He knows where the play stuff is. Not that I ever tried to hide it from him: there’s a lot to clear out in there and I want to be able to spread it out so that he and his cousins can get to it easier. Later, after cake, Gack wades in there anyway, obliviously barefooted, with a patient: ‘Else?’
What else is in here? Gack uses a kind of shorthand vocabulary. He gets by on this. So: ‘Else, Gol?’ We rummage around at the light end of the shed. ‘This?’ I say, pulling out buckets or netting, cardboard tubes and old tin cans. Gack is patient. We pull out most of the play end of the shed, bit by bit, and it slowly scatters across the garden. Before it all comes out though, Gack pulls out a garden sprayer that’s upside down in the trolley I used to use for hauling hefty NVQ portfolios around in. ‘This, Gol?’ I don’t ask him to ask for things: he can have what he wants, but he’s patient and polite with me and the play stuff. He pulls the sprayer out and comes back for the other ones. A few days ago, we’d had the sprayers out and Gack sat and dismantled several of them in an attempt to find out why they weren’t working. (Maybe they weren’t working because he’d dismantled them). The ones we couldn’t piece together again (a process rather like what happens with flat-pack wardrobes and bits and pieces left over at the end), we left as playable with in some other way, but the ones that could be sprayed with got a big fat black tick on their bases. I watch Gack as he quietly checks the bases of the sprayers, these few days on.
He chooses the best one, the one with the longest spray, to cue me (whilst surreptitiously placing the other working sprayers on the decking at the top of the garden so that I can’t reach them easily!) Our previous spray play involved a few minutes of going round in circles, in the rain, dogfight fashion; today, we’re face to face, attack mode. Gack cheats.
Now, I think of those sprayers and of my previous thinking and writing on magic. If magical processes include the charging of objects with the mystic force of the universe, or if magic is here in everything all along in objects revered, devoted to, then Gack’s garden water sprayers are small magic in the making. It is a formation of the meaning of objects: not in conscious ritual, yet it’s ritual all the same. Over days and weeks it is the repetition of play, of devotion, of understanding about the objects, the moments, the people around at that time that this ‘ritual’ is. This thinking is all more than merely being about the transitional object, such as that a small child will make use of. It’s more than this because meaning is infused in the object and it lingers over time. Or potential is recognised as already being there in the object, and it still lingers. Years down the line, maybe Gack will come across one of these sprayers with a big fat black tick on its base. Maybe that will mean something.
I cleared out a lot of old stuff recently. Now, this is related to the above. During the course of this clearing out of cupboards and long-forgotten boxes, I came across objects of my childhood. Some of these objects still fizzed with the possibility or played-with-ness in them. Some of these objects, however, just didn’t. I found things I either only vaguely remembered (not all from my childhood) or things I just didn’t recall at all. Some objects still resonate with the charge of the person who gave them to us, somehow. That person, kind of sealed in a freeze frame time bubble, there in our pasts. Some objects’ resonances, though, fade to the point of becoming bare of any fizz at all.
Is it just a lack of remembering, or has the object’s magic just seeped back out to the universe around it? If the magic has seeped away, it would suggest that the object needs re-charging, re-loving, by someone the same or new to it. It would suggest that magic is not there in everything all the time. Or, perhaps it would suggest that magic is there, potential is there, it’s just too pale to be seen by this individual: or, rather, we’re too far removed from its possibility to see it. Look and you will see?
Gack systematically dismantles the contents of the play end of the shed (‘Else, Gol? Else?’) as the afternoon drifts on. The garden is strewn with play detritus: not just in the stuff, but in the moments like after-images that slowly recede onto the air – this is what happened here, and here, and here.
Gack’s got an impressive memory. When the garden was bare he looked at the empty wall where, a few days ago, we closely examined a climbing snail. ‘Snay-eel, Gol?’ (He has a way of squeezing two syllables into a word where there ought rightly to be space for only one). The snay-eel isn’t there. Its previous presence still resonates though. I don’t know which objects and moments of played places will resonate for him in later life, and which will just fade out. All that can be done is to open up the possibilities in the now.