Magic Pockets: The Little Joys We Bring Our Kids

When I was three, my favorite dress was “the dress with the magic pockets.”

It was homemade -- of course -- in a cotton print, and my sister had a matching one. Each dress had two patch pockets, and every time my mother dressed me in it, I would find a marshmallow in one of the pockets. This delighted me, I think, more than it did Susan; I had an insatiable sweet tooth.

If someone had set a whole bag of Jet-Puffeds in front of me and told me to have as many as I wanted, I would have thought I’d entered a parallel universe of unmitigated pleasure. My family simply did not indulge in such excesses, perhaps because we are from old New England stock, with its mix of asceticism and a stiff-backed sense of propriety -- perhaps because my parents couldn’t afford it. But whatever the reason, a pocket with a marshmallow in it was my idea of the best magic in the world.

Sadly, I did not get to wear the dress every day. But after a few outings in it (well-spaced by matters of weeks, probably), I figured out a way to beat the system. I have a vivid memory of looking up into my closet at a row of dresses hung neatly above my head, of quickly locating the right one, and, knowing what I’d find, plunging my hand into the pocket. No marshmallow. Undaunted, I reached into the other pocket. Empty.

Something was obviously terribly wrong. Apparently, the dress was not quite as magic as it was purported to be. I do not think I admitted to my disappointing discovery, because it would make me look like an ungrateful glutton. I suffered in silence.

The next time my mother took the dresses out of the closet for me and my sister to wear, I reached into the pockets, my belief wavering -- but my fingers touched the smooth, soft surface of the puffy nugget of delight. I think it’s then that I began to suspect that my mother was behind the magic in the dress with the magic pockets. But I didn’t mind. Magic was magic was a marshmallow.

Given this family history, I shouldn’t have been surprised last week by the reception of the inaugural appearance of magic pockets in my own home.

It is ridiculously easy to slip, unnoticed, a marshmallow -- even a large one -- into the pockets of a toddler and a preschooler. The look on Mbot’s face when he found his was one of disbelief and delight. Then Gbot started patting his own pockets -- his reaction was more “it’s about time I found it.”

Secret Pocket, 3 of 3

I enjoyed a moment of mommy triumph in seeing a silly tradition that I remember loving coming full circle. Until ten minutes later, when it really did come full circle.

Mbot reached back into his pocket for another.

He dug deep.

There was no other.

I heard my own childhood disappointment in the indignant notes of wailing that rose around me.

And I heard my adult self explaining over the sobs. “But a magic pocket doesn’t just produce one marshmallow after another. It’s a treat. You can’t expect it. You have to just enjoy it when it appears.” And how does one explain patience to someone for whom a summer day lasts all summer and a two-minute time-out is eternity?

Of course all was forgotten ten minutes later. By the weebots at least. I am left recognizing my disappointment that my marshmallow -- the magic of Mbot’s initial reaction -- did not create eternal contentment for either of us. But the alternative, of course, is a universe in which marshmallows are infinite. And that would be so sticky.


(The original version of this post can be found on my blog,

Photo Credit: kellyhogaboom.

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