“My grandmother used to read Grimm’s Fairytales to me, when I was little, in Germany where I was born and lived until I was seven. In German, the stories, the märchen, don’t start with the phrase, “Once upon a time.” Instead, they begin with, “Dar war einmal.” It means, “There was once.” I was three or four years old then, and when my Oma said, “There was once,” I believed her. So, for me the things that happened in Hansel and Gretel, Aschenputtel and Sleeping Beauty were real. They were once, just like she said.”
When I was a little older and had learned to read, I threw myself into reading and explored on my own the stories in my grandmother’s books, hunting to find the time mentioned in the fairytales, the once that was. I read history, looking for that magical time, and though I found many interesting things that happened, things that enthralled me, things that fascinated me, I never found the particular time that was. So, I thought that, perhaps, the time, referred to in the tales, wasn’t a particular time in the past, maybe it was all time, maybe even my own time.
I had had evidence of that possibility at age five, when the circus had come to our small medieval town of Leutershausen, Middle Franken. Back in those days, we children could wander around on our own even when very young, and my brother and I very often did just that. When the circus arrived, we, along with every other kid in town, went to the field where it was being set up and watched, amid brightly colored wagons and strangely dressed people, as the men hoisted the giant tent. The atmosphere there was exhilarating. It had a sparkle to it, a kind of allure, an enchantment. I could hear it in the roaring of the lions. I could smell it in the scent of the elephants. I could almost taste the adventure of it all in the air. To me, it felt magical, and when my family went to the performance, I found that it was magical. It had actual magic in it, real magic, a genuine magician, one who could make things appear and disappear at will. I was entranced. The magic in my grandma’s stories was real. It was real in the time that once was, and, I believed then, real in the time I lived.
Of course, I grew up and learned that the magic of the circus, the illusionist’s flimflam wasn’t real at all. It was parlor games, a trick disguised by smoke and mirrors.So, I put childhood fantasy aside and went about my life. I eventually became a lawyer and worked to help secure financial stability for children.
However, hidden within the logic of my adult mind, within the recesses where the little girl still lived transfixed by the conjurer’s tricks, the magical world, the one I never stopped searching for, the one hidden behind the smoke and mirrors, continued to exist. It is still something that could be, something once there was, something that is.
This series, Smoke and Mirrors, is that world.