A Wizard and Some Magic

I always feel stupid when I cry, but there are times when feel stupider than most. Like today. I don’t cry when T.V. personalities die–only I did today. Today, I found out that Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, died on Tuesday. Bill Nye wrote a wonderful piece about him.

I must be a crumby Pagan, because I hadn’t even a flicker of precognition about it. Or it could just be that I’m a crumby Pagan because I don’t entirely believe in magic. I grew up an atheist and I never believed in Santa Claus largely because of my parents and Mr. Wizard.

Oh, my mother will tell you I cried when she told me Santa wasn’t real. The fact is, I did. I cried because I had told her a year prior that I didn’t believe in the fat man, and she insisted the jolly jelly-bellied old sleigh-driver really did exist. I cried because she lied to me, and lied fervently. Vehemently. Despite my five-year-old skeptic look. I became obsessed with veracity after that.

My dad was always very logical, very craftsmanly, and built many a thing when I was small. I was enamored of the power tools he kept first in the garage, and later in the basement when we moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut. I would quietly watch him make things, creeping up to a convenient window, hiding just out of sight to watch wood and metal and blades and sawdust dance and coalesce into something amazing. But I was never allowed to take part in this process. I wasn’t allowed to touch the tools.

That was why Mr. Wizard was so important to me. Not only was this stuff, this science, verifiably true, and utterly fascinating, not only did it make the whole universe make sense, not only did it tell me I was right all along in my convictions about Santa Claus, all of it, all of it was within my grasp. I could steal the parts for these experiments from the kitchen, the garage and the bathroom, and being awake early enough in the morning to watch his program, my parents never had to know that I had the ability and the tools to follow along. Mr. Wizard was my first taste of being able to do things for myself. It tasted like empowerment.

That’s a pretty powerful gift. And he never even knew me. And I have no way to say thank you.