When Mack was ten, she once asked me if she could stay ten, because, as she put it, “ten is da bomb.” Unlike her sister, who couldn’t wait to be a grown-up, Mack loved being a kid. She was so good at being a kid. When I would spy on her in our backyard playing with the neighbor kids in the fort or on the playground set or the basketball court, I often marveled at how vigorously she played and how completely immersed she was in the role of a kid. She perpetually had a dirty face, Kool-aid stained lips, candy in her mouth, and scrapes on her knees. Even when she became a teenager, went to high school, and ultimately to college, she was still just a big kid.
Now, I’d like to think that some of her inner-child came from me. I giggle at stupid jokes and puns, I love to make silly faces (yes, people, Mack got that talent from her mom), and I adore cotton candy. But, I believe someone else is responsible for Mack’s professional status as a kid. My father was Peter Pan. He was an overgrown child who loved cards, board games, and video games. He lived on candy and popcorn, jumped up and down when he was excited, opened gifts with the enthusiasm of a five-old at Christmas, and adored kid’s movies. Mack had all of those youthful qualities and elevated most of them to an art form. So even though Mack didn’t get to know him very well, she was like her granddad, for sure. They both approached life with a sense of fun and the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child.
Growing up in Neverland, I developed a fondness for Disney animated films and live-action movies with kid heroes. Therefore, I was always ready to curl up on the couch with my girls to watch kid’s movies; and when Mack was little, watching her favorite movies was the only thing that could get her to sit still. Over the years, we each had our favorites, which probably say more about our individual personalities than we would care to admit! (Kevin: The Incredibles, Stacy: A Christmas Story, Savannah: The Little Mermaid, and Mack: Monster’s Inc.). But the shared family favorite was Harry Potter. We saw all the new movies, and then watched them on video over and over again, I had to buy two sets of the books so the girls wouldn’t fight over who read the new book first, and we once drove to St. Louis to see one of the movies at an IMAX theatre.
The entire family loved Harry Potter; but Mack loved Harry Potter with the pure joy of a child, even after she went to college. After she had been at Truman State for about a month, she sent me this text and image:
“My future …”
The Post-Grad Sorting Hat
I responded, “So, grad school or parent’s house?” Her reply: “Cardboard box.”
Exactly one month later, I received this text from Mack: “It’s Harry Potter month. I’m waiting in line to be sorted. All of my friends came too without being dragged. I chose the right school.” Mack was comfortable in her kid-skin, and I was so happy she had found a group of friends who were comfortable in their kid-skin as well. When one of those friends went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studies in Florida this past summer, Mack called me on the phone and made me promise that I would take her there. She was twenty years old, but she still wanted her momma bear to take her to a theme park dedicated to a beloved character from a series of children’s books. The week before Mack left for Spain, we watched one of the earlier movies on TV and she chomped on some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans that her friend had brought her back from Harry Potter World. She made a series of horrible and ridiculous scrunched up faces when she ate the really gross ones. That night, she also made me renew my promise that we would visit the theme park, suggesting that perhaps it could be a college graduation present. She mused that the trip would be “way better than a set of luggage.”
Part of why knowing Mack and being in her presence was so delightful was the sheer pleasure of watching her get such a big kick out of the purest and simplest things in life. She really was a big kid, but she was wiser than most people twice her age and older. Like my dad, Mack understood that hanging on to your inner-kid was the best way to be a grown-up.