The Magic Hour

The Magic Hour

Kate and Rory Haskell lived in New York City with their son George.  Rory was a partner in an architectural firm and Kate had worked at the Museum of Natural History until the day before George was born.

Kate’s days were filled with the usual things a mother of an infant does.  Time seemed to vanish and also stand still; her daily schedule would hardly fill one page of a small post-it note.  Kate slid into her new life seamlessly and gratefully.  Each aspect of her day with George was a way to draw her closer to her baby and her life.  Pushing his carriage through the streets of the West Village, she experienced lovely aromas and sights that were new to her.  She was aware that her former working life had left her little time for exploring the neighborhood.

As George grew, the view from a stroller offered him opportunities to see the wondrous sights and sounds of a bustling city.  He imitated the cab horns and reached out to small dogs passing by.

Rory was working on a building nearby and often met Kate and George in the neighborhood.  Sometimes he appeared at home for a short visit.  Rory loved to show his buildings to George who got used to peering through a hole in the plywood to see the digging or construction.  When Rory lifted George up to see, he would jiggle his feet and squeal with delight.  “Big now!”  “Hole!”  “Wow!”

Time flew by.  One building was finished and Rory had a new project on the way.  George was beginning to love to draw.  He knew the Museum of Natural History’s butterfly exhibit very well.  He loved the gold in the Egyptian exhibit but was frightened of the dinosaurs.  “They don’t look friendly, Mommy.  Let’s not go in there.”

Kate wasn’t crazy about dinosaurs either so she was happy to detour right to the café.  One day she ran into her former boss and friend, Jade.

“Kate!  What a surprise!  It’s great to see you.  Putting up displays is not nearly as much fun or easy without you,” said Jade.  “That Aborigine textile display nearly did us in.”  She looked at George.  “You’re so big!  How old are you now?”

“Almost three and a half.  Right Mommy?”

“Yes, dear, in a week you will be exactly three and a half.”

“Kate, you look so happy.  I guess we won’t get you back for a while, will we?”  Jade sighed.

“Thank you, Jade.  I miss you all too.  We’re expecting another baby in the fall, so we’ll be moving out of the city.”

“Congratulations, Kate.  That’s wonderful.  And if you ever want to hang a Pre- Colombian show, you know just where to find us.  Try to come visit before you move.  The next show is going to be your favorite: antique Guatemalan textiles.”

“Thank you.  How beautiful.  Let’s plan on that.  Thanks for being happy to see us, Jade.”

Kate and George held hands as they left the beautiful building.  “George you are absolutely the best boy.  You were so patient as Jade and I talked.  Thank you.”

“Oh Mommy, I liked her too, because she liked you so much.”

Finding a cab was a snap.  It brought them straight to their favorite luncheonette and in no time they were eating a delicious lunch.  Kate was just about finished with her Greek salad.  George was finishing his chicken salad sandwich.  Kate inwardly marveled at her luck to have such a dear little boy.  Gladys, the waitress they always had, smiled at them both.

“You are good friends, right?” she asked.

George looked into his mother’s brown eyes as she looked into his.  Together they said “Yes, we are!”  They both laughed.

Their apartment was close by.  Rory’s latest building project was on the way.  Kate lifted George to peek into the peephole.  “Daddy’s job is so cool.  I love what he does.  I want to draw buildings when we get home.”

George buzzed them into to their shady foyer.  They entered the tiny elevator, and George really stretched to reach number five.  “I’m getting big!” he said proudly.

Once inside the sunny apartment, George settled in with his big pad and colored pencils.  Kate sat close by with a few magazines.

“I don’t really know how to draw a building but if I draw a big rectangle and add lots and lots of squares for windows, then a pointy top with a needle, it might look like the Empire State Building.”

Kate looked over and sure enough the Empire State building was right there, next to her.

“George, that’s just like it.  Good work.”

“Thanks, Mommy.”  George looked at his drawing with a modest, but definite little smile.  “And now the Chrysler Building.”

Kate loved George in the deepest way.  She looked at his sturdy back, his yellow and navy striped sleeves pushed up so he was able to really get into his work.  A little sinking spell came over her.  This idyllic simple life was a present she opened every day.  Kate looked forward to each morning.  In a few weeks, this apartment would no longer be their haven.  Their urban routine would be traded for something new and also nice, but not the same.

George’s top of the Chrysler Building was coming along beautifully as tears filled Kate’s eyes.  She knew a backyard and a flower garden and a swing set would be perfect additions to their lives.  Another child was a dream come true, but made her feel a little disloyal to George.

Kate wondered how George already knew about shading the part of the building that was not in the sun.

“Now I want to try to do Daddy’s building!”

George walked to the window.  Across the street, in the afternoon sun stood Rory’s building.

“Do you think I can draw this, Mommy?”

“Oh I do,” Kate said with gentle conviction.

Getting up and really looking at the curve of the building, George could feel how to draw it.  His hand knew just what to do.  It felt like magic.

“Mommy, I like it!”

“Honey, this is an incredible drawing.  Wait until Daddy sees it.”

“When we move to the country, I will draw trees and maybe birds.  I will learn how to draw them if I do a few before we go.  How many days until we move?”

Kate took down the calendar.  She counted out loud, “27 days.”

“Then how many days until you have the baby?”

“Oh I guess about ninety.”

“Will we find another luncheonette?  Will you still read next to me, Mommy, while I draw? “

“Yes, George.  We will.  I would be sad if we didn’t have these times.”

“Mommy, I’ve been thinking about the baby.  I wonder how we will ever be able to.”  George’s picture was just about finished.  He walked over to his mother and curled up next to her.  Kate put her magazine down.  George was just about on the baby.

Kate could sense he too longed for a guarantee of permanence.  Holding him close, she whispered, “Let’s make sure we have an hour together, everyday.”

“No matter what, Mommy?”

Yes.  We’ll call it The Magic Hour.  We will make it appear even when other things try to fill the day up.”

“I love you so much Mommy,” George whispered.

“I know, sweetheart.  Thank you.  I love you so much too, George.”

Just then Rory turned the key and came into the apartment.  He smiled widely and hugged and kissed Kate and George.

“It seems like days since I have seen you two,” Rory said enthusiastically.

“Daddy I drew your curvy building!”

Rory was excited to see George’s big pad.  “You really did.  This is terrific.  George, you can really draw now.”

“I’m thinking about the new things I’ll see.  When we move.  I’ll draw them too.  Maybe a robin or a cardinal will come close to our house.”

Rory and Kate looked at each other over George’s head.  They knew they would do all they could to make this transitional time in their lives as peaceful as possible.  By being so emotionally close to one another, so fully connected, their family’s happiness could last.

It is common for thoughtful parents to be concerned about the effect of a move and a new baby on their firstborn child. George, although only three and a half, seems already to be positively disposed to the changes that will come to his life. His interests sustain him and he is secure in his parents’ love.  Kate, on the other hand, who moved easily through her transition from work to motherhood, struggles with this upcoming transition.  Her cozy, full city life as the adoring mother of George will inevitably change and she knows it.  She as much as George, needs to believe in the Magic Hour.

Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.

We welcome your comments and questions.