The Playroom: Magic and wonder

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

“Mom, where do flies live?”

“Flies live outside.”

“I know that, but where do they go night-night?”

Do flies have a 24-hour life cycle, therefore negating the need to go night-night since basically they just drop dead, or do flies live for more than a day and, if so, do they actually go night-night?

I start to think about the life cycle of a fly, which I am sure I probably learned about in high school biology, but I can’t remember. All I can remember is that flies have about a bazillion eyeballs. That’s a lot of eyeballs to close, so how would they go night-night anyway?

I do know that maggots were used to combat gangrene during the Civil War, and I also know that somewhere outside of London there is a huge maggot farm and a guy who makes a living farming maggots.

I know this because when I lived in London there wasn’t always some fabulously well-written and well-acted British crime show starring Helen Miren on the BBC and sometimes, well, the best the BBC had to offer was maggot farms.

But my son doesn’t care about life cycles or 19th-century battlefield medicine or even about maggot farms. His postulate is where flies go night-night. I have no idea.

I also have no good ideas about where wolves go in the morning time, if monsters can actually live in the dark, or why Claire becomes a pelican at midnight.

“Mom, Claire at school is invisible. Really, she is invisible. But she dresses up like a bird.”

“Well, did you tell her that she isn’t invisible because you can see her?”

“Well, she dresses up like a human.”

“So she is invisible, but then she dresses up like Claire to come to school?”

“Yeah, except when she’s a pelican. “

“A pelican?”

“Yes, at midnight she becomes a pelican.”

“So, Claire is invisible and she dresses up like a human to come to school and then at midnight she becomes a pelican?”

“Yeah, but why the pelican?”

I am struggling with “Why the pelican?” and my son asks me a bigger question, a more important question than one about flies or wolves or monsters or even pelicans.

“Mom, who made God?”

I pause. The true answer is I have no idea. I answer, “God made God.” This answer makes my son crazy.

He yells at me “That is not possible!” He is really frustrated with me.

I answer him that when it comes to God, everything is possible, and he goes berserk. He wants a literal, concrete answer, and I can’t give it to him. It is at this point in our trip home from school that I am feeling completely defeated. I fear that if I don’t come up with the answers, he’ll stop asking me the questions.

When Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921, he said, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.”

What is the truth about who made God, where flies go night-night and why Claire becomes a pelican at midnight? The truth is that they are all beautiful questions from the mind of a growing child. A mind filled with magic and wonder, and the best part about all of it isn’t having the answers, it’s the questions.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at