I was reading Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker. Eight-year-old Clementine and her dad were building a new dining table because her mom was having a baby, which was going to throw the entire seating arrangement of their family of four out of whack, and Clementine hates change. So, her dad decided to build a pentagon table— one side for each member of the family. Because every person in a family is important. Clementine and her dad were in the basement getting ready to assemble the table skirt, and Charlize said…

“Excuse me, Yaya. What’s a table skirt?”

I looked from the page to Charlize’s puzzled face. My mind emptied as it always does whenever she pokes me with an unexpected question. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I needed to remember I knew it. It’s the same sensation that shows up when I write a word I haven’t used in a long time. It’s spelled correctly, but when I see it in black and white it looks W-R-O-N-G wrong. You know what I’m talking about. Words like conscience and conscious, which doubly confuses because of how similar they sound. But that’s a rant for another day.

My explanation of a table skirt tumbled out, and although my description sounded to me like I was talking without any knowledge of English, I was delighted to have it validated by Sara Pennypacker in the next paragraph.

The table skirt is made of the boards that run perpendicular to the tabletop, parallel to the perimeter, just beneath it […] The skirt is the part that hangs down under the top like a skirt. That the legs stick out from, like a skirt.

These moments of pause during story time are my favorite. I look forward to them. Miss them when they don’t pop up. I’m proud of how unafraid Charlize is to admit she doesn’t know something, and thrilled she’s comfortable and courageous enough to seek the answers she needs. Lord knows that was never my default. Her inquiries remind me to do the same.

I shouldn’t be surprised by Charlize’s fearlessness. Her dad— my middle son— is the perfect role model. Whenever he’s in a conversation and learns something new, his first response is always, “I did not know that.”

I did not know that— what a lovely mantra for a writer in progress. Voicing it with an upward inflection as if it was a question creates an inner pause that allows the new information to root, leads the way for a new perspective to rise, and/or better yet, makes room for more questions to arrive.

How fortuitous. A new kind of Big Magic— powered by me. Oh, I like that. I like it a lot said the Cat in the Hat to the fish in the pot.

It’s the perfect mantra to fuel the next stretch of my writing journey. The one where I need to figure out how to pitch Kaitlyn’s story as if it’s already on the verge of being released on the silver screen because it does belong there. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself, but I don’t care. I’ve worked too hard and long not to believe a book deal is in my future. Stranger things have happened— pandemic anyone? But okay, fine, if the agent and book deal don’t come, it won’t matter— at least not much— because my new mantra will see me through.

I did not know that is the best gateway for entering into the world of my new story. Because I know zilch at the moment. But thanks to Charlize and her daddy, I’m ready to ask about everything and anything I don’t know and see where that Big Magic leads me.