Magic Kaleidoscope

   A to Z April Challenge

   Grandma’s house has always been the place that never changed.  When they bought their first automatic garage door…it was the event of the half century.  It was a huge deal.  It was bold, it was modern, it was different, it was new!

   You could count on consistency at my grandparent’s house.  Sugar free lollipops were in the flour cannister in the hutch, an infinite amount of stale Wrigley’s gum always in the bottom right drawer of her cabinet, coffee ice cream always in the freezer, Grandpa always hunched over in his garden if not in his recliner watching a game and….a kaleidoscope in the bar where Grandma kept all the toys stored.

   I think I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again anyway.  That bar was my favorite room in that entire house.  Everything about that room felt different from the rest of the house.  It has this awesome, old school shag carpet that’s brown and orange.  It has three doors, three guys, three.  Two lead outside, one to the rest of the house.  Behind the bar Grandpa kept a plastic tub of individually wrapped Twizzlers.

   An old chair reminiscent of the 50’s or 60’s with sharp legs and dulled upholstery sat to the right of the door upon entering and beside it another piece of retro furniture: a side table with just enough storage space on the bottom shelf for my coloring books.  I can still smell the crayons as I think of my tiny legs curling up beneath me in that chair to hide them from the mysterious cold that always filled that room.  Grandma always said it was the lack of insulation but it was cold in there even in the middle of a hot, steamy summer– I loved that room in the summer, laying on the floor, feeling the cold sweep over me as my fingers pulled at the coolled long strands of carpet.

   When mom made me spend the night to “bond” with my grandparents, most of my time was spent in that bar.  Grandma had a mini blue and white porcelain tea set that I absolutely loved to play with.  Stilla liked to play house with it but I liked to turn the bar into a restaurant and I’d set up “tables” everywhere and get stressed out trying to “serve” everyone on time.  I liked the noises the dishes made, that’s all I cared about; the clashing and clanging, the scraping and banging.  I broke the creamer carafe once, Grandma spent days gluing it back together only for me to break my next visit– never saw it again.

   When the coloring got boring, the tea set in hiding, Grandpa too busy to build a puzzle with me and all the candy was off limits, I’d go into that bar and pull out the trusty kaleidoscope.  Grandma kept it in the same bin as the broken crayons that were probably my mother’s once upon a time.  I don’t know how old that kaleidoscope was but it was the most mesmerizing thing in that whole damn house (that I was allowed to touch).


   My favorite was the beginning, when you first lift it to your eyes and you see the reflection of resting color and a dull, circular white backdrop.  As you slowly counter twist the two cylindrical pieces in your hands, triangles of color move into place.  Continue twisting and the color shifts, forming continuously altering geometrical patterns. What made it all the more fascinating to me was the noise of the entire process.  At first there’s nothing and then pieces start sliding and coming together with littles clicks to notify their connection.  When these shapes should be awkwardly resting against each other, they somehow manage to form other shapes or larger versions of themselves with translucent colors bursting, growing and shifting.  It’s beautiful and even though you’re controlling it, even though you know some human partnering with machines put this cheap toy together, you still feel like you’re witnessing magic existing in its natural habitat.  You’re a part of something amazing during those moments you twist the kaleidoscope and squint to get a clearer view.

   I will forever remember my dull afternoons spent at my grandparents’ being illuminated by tiny shards of color that should make no sense together and yet somehow seem naturally fused with each new twist of the hand.  Of all the memories, good, bad, and boring at their house, ones with the kaleidoscope shine surprisingly bright.  You’ll know never know what you treasure, what from your past will warm your heart, or what helped shaped your tastes and character until all you have left are memories and a retrospective view.  Getting old is becoming a theme in my life and…

I’m just too damn young for that!!


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