Following Unicorns

PLOP! 

The bright yellow book dropped out of nowhere, landing right next to me. 

Well, not quite out of nowhere. A grinning Missy stood nearby, having just completed a lob her softball coach would have been proud of. 

I chuckled at the less-than-subtle hint. “Unicorn time, huh?” 

An eager nod answered.

“OK. Brush your teeth and we’ll read unicorns, too.” 

Missy’s smile brightened. A new adventure with Phoebe and Marigold was about to begin. 

As some of you might already know, bedtime reading is sacred in Chez Rochat. Ever since Heather and I became Missy’s guardians, we’ve spent the last minutes of her day journeying past hobbit holes, or racing around the world, or following the growing-up of a feisty girl on Klickitat Street. It’s been a wild adventure, especially since Missy follows the plots much more closely than an outside observer might expect from her developmental disability. (The whoop that she let out at the defeat of Voldemort could probably be heard in Berthoud.) 

Lately, we’ve added a second book to the night as a bonus: a collection of “Phoebe and her Unicorn” comic strips that Missy got curious about one day. The results have been, shall we say, magical. 

If you’re not familiar with the strips, think “Calvin & Hobbes” but with a twist. In Calvin’s world, only he could see that his best buddy Hobbes was more than just a stuffed tiger. But the unicorn best friend that Phoebe makes – Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, if you please – is quite visible to everyone else. But a “Shield of Boringness” around Marigold means that only a select chosen few can behold her full glory. Others simply shrug at the ordinary sight and go on with their day. 

I love it and not just for the illustrated hijinks. The idea of walking past wonder without truly seeing it is all too familiar. 

Especially as we pass another graduation day. 

It’s a day that always holds so much promise. Among the endless strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” is a new set of teenagers facing a world of possibilities. So much to discover, to learn, to become! 

And then …. life sets in. And for many of us, our focus narrows. 

We get caught up in just surviving day-by-day, dealing with a thousand necessary struggles. We lock into a life that, good or bad, becomes familiar. And when something becomes familiar, we stop seeing it fully. Like a house we’ve driven past a thousand times, the details stop registering … it’s just there, barely acknowledged as we go on by. 

We create our own Shields of Boringness.

And we don’t have to. 

Slow down. Step back. Take a moment to think, or even just to be. See the people around you. Stop to look at your surroundings and take in something more than peeling paint and grass that needs mowing. 

It’s in those moments that the ordinary peels back and shows the wonder inside. 

Sometimes the filter is necessary, sure. If we spent every minute caught in wonder, nothing else would happen. (A unicorn’s radiance is spellbinding, after all.) Things have to get done, tasks have to be attended to. But if we leave our shield up too often, we forget how to take it down. 

So for those who have newly graduated- and for those long past Graduation Day – don’t lose track of your unicorns. Hang on to some of the magic. Create your own, if you can. 

And if you’re lucky enough to conjure up a reading night of your own, watch out for flying books. 

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