Few things on earth are as fertile as a child’s imagination, or as fragile as a little girl’s heart.
She was 7. Whenever we’d poll the family as to what we should watch on movie night, she’d say Titanic. Every. Time. She loved the music, the costumes, and the love story. Titanic was pure enchantment to Cozette. So when I was shopping for Christmas gifts that year, I Googled “Heart of the Ocean.” Sure enough, the query returned links to costume jewelry replicas of the famous movie necklace. A heart-shaped sapphire rock framed with diamonds on a diamond chain. Perfect.
I ordered one from a vendor on Amazon that had the best reviews. She was going to love it.
On Christmas morning we waited a while to give it to her. After her stocking, a Barbie, and a couple of outfits, she unwrapped the gift to reveal a shiny blue box. Inside the box was a black velvet bag with drawstrings. Inside the bag was the magic.
She held the necklace in front of her without speaking. Her eyes were as large as her smile. She looked at my wife, then me, then raced over and hugged us tight. “Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. I love it.”
She kept the necklace in the velvet bag inside of the blue box on her dresser until school started again.
On her first day back at school she wore a new shirt with a puppy on the front, and the necklace with the fake blue heart-shaped stone. That morning, her friends gathered around her as she told them the story of the stone and how it was part of a movie where an old woman threw it in the ocean at the end. And now she’s wearing it. The children were mesmerized by its sparkle, but weren’t allowed to touch it.
After lunch at PE, one of the diamond links on the cheap necklace broke apart and the stone tumbled to the ground. Amazingly, the fake diamonds stayed intact, but the metal plate on the back of the stone fell off.
She fell to her knees and started to cry. Her friends gathered around her and one of them sought out the teacher.
“Oh my, what happened?” the teacher asked.
Cozette looked up at the teacher with tears in her eyes, opened her hands, and showed her the necklace. “It’s my favorite thing in the world.” she managed to say.
The teacher reached down and took the necklace then held it up for inspection. “Oh it’s ok. It’s not real. I’m sure your parents will order you another one.” she said.
And at that moment, as she was on her knees dealing with an important loss, part of Cozette’s childhood wonder floated up through the trees, into the sky, and disappeared.
Of course I ordered her another one, and, after hearing the story, the vendor on Amazon was kind enough to include a note to her about how they managed to salvage the precious stone and make it even stronger.
But, thanks to an adult who, despite her role, was unable to identify with a child’s wonder, it was too late.
Something happens to us as we grow older. The magic in the world contracts from the edges of our imagination to a place where we try to make sense of it all. And rarely do.