Do you know what it was like to be 13?

My oldest granddaughter is now 13.  A teenager. Beginning what is supposedly an angst-filled and uncertain time for humans.

I have no clue what it was like to be thirteen years old. My family sent out a Christmas letter. They’ve been collected into a notebook which I use whenever I want to know what I was doing at a certain age. Checking the records, I see I was a Star Scout, diligently working on merit badges. Once I read this in the Christmas letter archives, the memories come back and I remember the Scout meetings and the camping trips and family trip to a lake near Rhinelander, Wisconsin where we tried (without success) to catch Pike and Muskies.

I know my granddaughter’s primary focus is ballet lessons. She’s been in Girl Scouts. She likes the scariest rides at Disney World and other theme parks. Goodness knows I, as her grandfather, don’t know how to handle ballet lessons or perform on stage. So, no wisdom from me on being a teen.

Not that she’d ask.

She’s a vegan even though her sister and parents aren’t. My wife and I wonder where that came from; perhaps she heard about it from another kid at school and the approach to eating made sense.

I can’t help with that.

I know she can be very stubborn, very focused on what she wants to do. I can identify with that. Seriously, I was a horrible teenager mainly because I had no respect for authority and didn’t like being told what to do or what not to do.

My daughter won’t let me say anything about what I felt at thirteen. I don’t blame her. Yet, I worry, because being an outlier can be a lonely road. If we saw each other more often (she lives in MD and I live in GA), I could listen and hope listening is all she wanted.

So, she’s slowly turning into an adult, a time when parents are often skeptical about the value of too much contact with grandparents. My parents often thought my grandparents were a bad influence. That meant that I thought my grandparents were a good influence.

I was very independent as a teen. I think my granddaughter will be, too. I’m both happy and concerned about that. Her IQ will get her into trouble that I hope she’ll figure out how to get out of.

Grandpa’s sort of a rebel. Best that I don’t let her know.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer.”

Perhaps we’ve lost too much of the magic

“‘The ancient world was full of magic,’ writes novelist C.J. Cherryh.  ‘Most everyone north and northwest of the Mediterranean believed that standing barefoot on the earth gave you special knowledge, that the prickling feeling at the back of your neck meant watchers in the wood, and that running water cleansed supernatural flaws.'”

–On Myth and Magic in Terri Windling’s post

Since we, as a world, have grown up, most people no longer believe this; or, if they do, they don’t admit it.

Ignorant superstition or pagan religion: that’s how such ideas are often categorized.

fantasyartIn one of my novels, I said that we’d exchanged magic and wonder for science and technology. Goodness knows, there have been benefits to some of that. But it seems a little skewed to me.

Too little magic. Too much technology. Some say, that our technology will one day rule us (literally, not figuratively as it does now) and will become so self-aware that it (the computers and machines) will decide that humans are no longer needed.  Kind of like the Terminator movies.

I’m subversive when it comes to magic. I put it in my fantasy novels where it seems almost natural enough to be real. I hope some readers think it’s real by the time they finish the books. If not that, I hope they are willing top ponder the question of its reality with open minds.

Perhaps we’ve most too much of the magic because we never believed enough in ourselves as individuals. Did we assume scientists, inventors, governments and corporations knew more about everything than we did? Did we see ourselves as too small to trust what our hearts suggested to us?

Hard to say. The magic discussion can get very circular because it’s often said, you won’t find magic if you don’t believe in it. That may be true, but it’s also convenient because it’s a false method of trying to prove a point.

Maybe we don’t have to believe in magic to find it. Maybe all we have to do is entertain the possibility that it’s there. It’s not too difficult to walk barefoot across a field or a beach and see what happens. Naturally, doing that with our arms crossed and our minds cynical isn’t going to help. Better to play. To dance there or enjoy the scenery with all of our logic on hold.

In my stories, I suggest magic is there waiting for characters to see it. Some do, some don’t. Maybe those who see it are crazy fools, but what if they’re not? If we dismiss things out of hand, we’ll never know.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the upcoming folk magic novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”