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Authors: Lisa Papademetriou

A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic

BOOK: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic
2.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


This book is dedicated to my daughter,

Zara Marguerite Usman,

with love and extra magic.

Author's Note


Let me tell you how it found me. My great-grandfather was German. During the First World War, he was stationed in France. He missed his family a great deal, and one day, he bought a gift for his then six-year-old daughter, my omi (grandmother). It was a book of fairy tales, written in English, because that was a language he wanted to encourage.

Omi was the only member of her family to emigrate. She and her Greek husband moved first to England and later to the United States, escaping Germany just before the outbreak of the Second World War. She brought the book with her, where it sat on a shelf in New Jersey, waiting.

When I was ten years old, my parents separated. That summer, probably to help me escape the misery that hung through our house like fog, my parents sent me to visit Omi. As a birthday present, my grandmother gave the book to me.

Being a girl with a vivid imagination, I knew immediately that the book was magic. The royal blue covers decorated with golden fairies held an elegant, old-fashioned volume of fairy tales, many of which were unknown to me. The full-color illustrations were beautiful, each set on its own special sheet of creamy smooth paper. The stories were written in elegant Victorian style, and when I ran my fingers across the type, I could feel the letter-shaped craters left by the old metal press. Those words gave me an enormous sense of comfort from the universe; their antiquity was a reminder that the book had come to me across continents and decades and landed at the very moment I needed a little magic.

When I was in high school, my friend said to me, “Lisa, isn't it comforting to think that, right now, God is preparing someone special, just for you?” We had been talking about finding the perfect husband. I replied, “But what if that one special person for me is in Japan? What if I never meet him?” My friend rolled her eyes, but the joke is on her: at that very moment, my future husband was in Lahore, Pakistan. The joke was on me, too: I
meet him. That's the way magic is. My husband, Ali, was
meant for me the same way my book was meant for me. We belonged together: it was fate.

I have heard of a Chinese legend that the gods use a red thread to connect lovers who are destined for each other. I imagine all of us as points that exist in space and time, with red threads that unite us to our important people, places, events, and even things. These threads cross and intersect. They tangle. They are a huge web that circles the world.

Stories are the way we reveal these threads.
This happened, and because of that, this.
This is the way human beings understand ourselves and how we have come to be who we are; narratives show us what is important in our lives. Stories make the magic of fate visible.

My magic book is the way my great-grandfather managed to reach me—his American granddaughter, someone he never knew—across time. He bought the book for Omi, but it was meant for me.


of fiction. Any similarity to persons, living or dead, or actual events is entirely coincidental.

Except for the magic parts.

Those are real.

BOOK: A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic
2.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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