Long-time readers of Inside Magic are already familiar with this story. Almost all of it nearly true.
It was Thanksgiving dinner years ago. The family was gathered around the table. We have a large family both in girth and number. Our now departed grandfather and the magician scion of the Hardy clan (our family’s stage name) was seated at the head of the elongated table created by pushing three wooden tables and one card table into a long row.
Grandfather Hardy (his real last name from which we took our stage name) clutched the family bible in his liver-spotted hands and gazed over his progeny with pride. Assembled were five magicians and their families as well as non-magicians and their families. He was waiting for all to cease their conversations, the passing of plates and the taking of places.
Once all were quiet, Grandfather Hardy turned to his favorite passage from the holy book on Thanksgiving day, John 10:10 “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.” He spoke for a few minutes about the abundant life God had provided and a tear formed in his right eye, his voice cracked and he looked down at his amply filled plate. “We have much abundance and for that we should always be thankful.”
He crossed himself and we all followed – even those around the table who did not customarily cross themselves in their faith.
We began to eat.
There was clanging of forks and knives on Grandmother Hardy’s prized china and the occasional sounds of chomping from those in our family who had no manners and could not close their mouths whilst eating. We thought nothing of it, though. This was a time of family dedicated to giving thanks.
Then Grandfather Hardy brought out a deck of cards.
The mood around the table changed.
Some of us were excited. Some showed signs of ennui and others just averted their glance from the old man and his preparation to show a card trick.
There are people who eat with their mouths open and people who don’t like card tricks. If you were to draw a Ven Diagram describing those two groups, they would not only connect, they would likely match up exactly in one circle with no evidence of outliers.
Grandfather Hardy asked the youngest of the families to select a card from the deck.
Young Natasha was just four but knew how to select a card and was excited about the attention she was now receiving from not only her Great Grandfather but also the entire crowded table. She pondered the perfect fan of cards before her and made a selection.
“Show it to everyone but not me,” Grandfather Hardy said.
Natasha did as she was told. Our memory may be fading but we think it was the two of clubs.
“Now, Tasha, Grandfather Hardy said with a smile, “sign the card so we’ll know it is yours if we see it again.”
She joined in the smile and looked to her mother, our aunt, as she took the pen she was handed and slowly, very slowly wrote her name on the card. It said, “Tasha.”
Without urging from Grandfather Hardy, she placed the card back in the deck, still spread in a perfect fan. She knew the elements of such a trick.
Grandfather Hardy handed the deck to Tasha’s mother and asked her to help her daughter shuffle it thoroughly. The two shuffled for quite a while – or so it seemed to the magicians around the table. It is difficult to say what the non-magicians thought.
Tasha’s mother returned the deck to her father and he held it fairly in his left hand.
“Tasha,” he said. “Do you remember what your card looked like?”
Tasha turned to her mother with a smile. Her mother whispered something in her ear and Tasha turned back to greet the gaze of her Great Grandfather. “Two of cubs,” she said.
“Indeed?” asked Grandfather Hardy. “And it has your signature on it too.”
Tasha nodded and looked back at her mother for approval. Her mother again whispered something in her ear and she turned again towards the table and nodded with a smile.
“Take a look at the cards and tell me if you see yours,” Grandfather Hardy instructed with a kind smile.
As he turned the deck face up and began to spread them across the tablecloth – one of four covering the assembly of tables – everyone could see that all of the cards were blank. Tasha’s card was gone but so were the faces of all others.
Tasha’s eyes grew wide. She had never seen this trick before. She had been the volunteer for many of the old man’s tricks but this was a new one. She turned to her mother again as if to verify that what she was seeing was not only amazing to her but to others. She saw her mother’s proud smile and her smile increased accordingly.
“Where did it go?” Grandfather Hardy asked.
Tasha shook her head, still smiling.
“Look under your plate, Tasha,” Grandfather Hardy said softly.
Tasha lifted her plate and taking the instructions very literally looked at the bottom of the plate, not the table beneath. Her mother pointed down to the table and drew her daughter’s attention to a single face down card.
Tasha seemed to accept that the trick was over. She was impressed, delighted, amused, and very, very happy. She had no need to turn over the card, she knew it had to be the one she selected and signed.
“Turn it over,” said several of the non-magician family members almost in unison.
Tasha did as she was urged and indeed the card was the same one she had selected and signed.
Her smile grew wider, she looked to her mother and now back to Grandfather Hardy and then her mother again.
She leapt from her chair to give the old man a hug and a kiss. He accepted both and hugged her tightly.
His eyes were filled with tears now.
“Abundantly,” he said with cracking voice. “We have been blessed with abundance.”