Kicking It: The Magic Box Mystique

 

Last updated 4/23/2022 at 5:09pm



Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

After my wedding ring, there is only one other sacred item in this household. It’s called “The Magic Box” and it belongs to the grandkids.

Here is how it started.

We moved to Fallbrook in 2014 to help my stepson’s family with new baby care. Our idea was we’d watch the lil’ guy once a week to ease the cost of babysitting. That was the idea. It worked out to be a lot more often and in exchange for our frequent devoted care we have been rewarded with priceless memories and a grandson that thinks I’m the cat’s meow.

That’s not to say that we didn’t open a bottle of bubbly annually on the last day of school when mommy was home for the summer. Naturally, there were other events throughout the months and following years that we found reason to knock back an adult libation. For instance, we did the happy-dance when he passed potty training…and we did quite a bit of high fiving when his two-year younger sister completed her diaper cycle as well.


Yet, the wildest party occurred last year at school’s end knowing full well we were off the hook for babysitting since the little princess was starting kindergarten in the fall of 2021.

Okay, we did over imbibe at that party. Officially, we had completed our tour of duty.

Of course, looking back, those are some of the sweetest days in recent memory. As it happened, the little darlings are now living across the street which means they have ample access to “mi casa es su casa.” Their home away from home.

As you might imagine, all did not run smoothly over the years. Truth be told, there were several instances over time which gave us pause. We did not feel we had the same authority to impose discipline like we would over our own kids, causing us to ponder the best way to keep these little mites in check.


We stumbled across redirection for those instances when our little guy became obstreperous, we decided to humor him through distraction. One of those interruptions routinely included watching “Curious George” on PBS. That is why it was only natural for ‘good boys’ to get ‘Curious George’ treats. It worked like ‘magic.’ That is until he complained to management about the monotony of his good behavior reward.

His request for diversity is how The Magic Box legend began. (In reality it is a bedraggled-yellow-7-year-old Curious George snack box that once contained small packets of gummy fruit treats.)

As one might imagine, Master Westphal learned quickly of the box’s location. That it was kept within his reach was an accident on our part. Yet, it worked. This now 8-year-old gent is a really good guy and all that followed over the ensuing months was copacetic until his younger sister found the location and the contents of it, The Magic Box.


Tutored under the wing of her now-much-wiser-and-older sibling, his 6-year-old sister is more skeptical than he was at the same age. Let it be said, she has also benefited from the wisdom of his enlightened 8-year-old guidance.

Predictably, the ritual has evolved into an expectation. Both of them no longer feel a treat is just reward for good behavior, but instead their inalienable right. Just the same when the box is found to be empty, my go-to explanation is “someone must have been naughty” after their knee jerk command “why aren’t there any snacks in here?”


Over time The Magic Box ante has gone up. They are no longer satisfied with low-cost goodies from the sale bin. They both prefer premium milk chocolate. The boy is the fussiest, refusing to taste anything with a nut in it. She, on the other hand, won’t touch a gummy fruit, but likes expensive butter mints; he, or course, won’t even touch his tongue to them.

It is not uncommon for these shifty kids to just pop down the hill under the guise of coming for a brief visit; when truth be told it is to snag a snack and scoot back across the street to go home. Just such an instance occurred during the long-boring days of Spring Break.


Our entitled petite 6-year-old priss escorted her overnight guest down to get the wink-wink, “green vegetable scraps for the chickens.” But we knew better having witnessed these acts of self-indulgence before. In reality their arrival was just a ploy to exploit the contents of The Magic Box while cleverly impressing her friend.

I know this for a fact since she sashayed in the front door, introduced her girlfriend, walked directly to The Magic Box, pulled out the two-chocolate bunny treats, gave one to her wide-eyed girlfriend, and headed back out the door.

It wasn’t until she was in the middle of the driveway that she remembered she’d forgotten the chicken scraps. Blush. Blush. She pshawed and came back inside to get the chicken scraps.

As one might suspect, often I have been accused of being the snack fairy. That pixie who fills The Magic Box. Naturally, I deny the accusations.

Regardless, these two moppets mock me with their too often shared, smug, sideways glances as they hum-hum under their breaths and arrogantly gaze at one another with the combined knowledge known only to themselves.

However, my recent trip to Anchorage did put a kibosh on their smugness. It has resulted in some of the fairy’s mystic powers being restored. After all, if LuLu is the fairy – how could she replenish the treats when she was in Alaska?

It has become the unsolved mystery of the ages. Or at least for the ages of these two 6 and 8-year-olds.

As it turns out, the mystery is still pondered, and with any luck, they’ll be bamboozled a bit longer to keep the miracle alive of who is The Magic Box fairy? One can only hope for the wonder to endure.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at [email protected]

 

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