For my Mom:
I know that this thread is about what got us into magic, but if I may, I would like to talk about the person who helped keep me in magic; my Mom.
When I was but a wee lad, my Mom worked the late shift and slept during the day. I was too young to be allowed outside while she slept--though occasionally she would wake up long enough to have me run out to the Helms Bakery truck to buy us each a fudge brownie--so, besides Sheriff John and Hobo Kelley on the TV, my company became playing cards. Mom taught me how to shuffle and play solitaire (Klondike). After she would get up, we'd play Crazy Eights or Fish. She taught me Cribbage while I was still in kindergarten (which probably explains why I was so good at math as a kid: nowadays I need a calculator for everything) and I knew the rudimentary rules of draw poker by the time I was eight.
Though exposed at a younger age (I saw a magic show when I was six), my real interest in magic began when I was about nine-years old. My only source material, however, was the handful of books at the local county library (none at my school library) and a Svengali Deck, actually purchased by my older brother but which found its way to me. (By the way, it was blue backed and the gaff was the Jack of Spades. It's amazing, sometimes, the things we can remember.)
Mom had a contact at the Santa Ana (California) City Library and she asked what magic books they had there. It turned out that they had several copies of Magician's Magic by Paul Curry and she could buy a copy at the staggering price of $3. Included in this book (which I still have, though its condition is less than perfect) is "Out of This World." Imagine a 10-year old running around performing one of the greatest card tricks of all time? That was me! Thanks to my Mom.
A few years later, after selling our house, we were living in a hotel bungalow waiting for the delivery of our new home: a 46-foot sailboat. I was one seriously depressed teenager: I had been uprooted from a big house, hometown and friends that I loved. My Mom wasn't 100% crazy about the idea of living on a boat either, but it was my Dad's dream; so she gave up her house, and the life she was used to, for him and his dream. It was the summer of 1974 and I was doing nothing but moping around the hotel. One day Mom came home from work and dropped a small stack of magic catalogs on my bed. "Look through those and see what you might want to get," she said. "We're going to this magic shop on Saturday." Up to that day the only magic shops I'd ever been in were the Disneyland shops (in those days there was one in Snow White's Castle as well as the one on Main Street).
Saturday came and off we went to Bently's Trading Post on 4th Street in Santa Ana. It was a narrow but deep shop. A pawnshop was on one side and the magic shop on the other (the left as you walked in). Bently was a very old man with long white hair and matching beard. He didn't do much; he had a couple of young guys working the counter, but I remember him quite vividly. When one of his employees would ask a question, he would simply give a quick, knowing, usually affirmative nod; winking with both eyes. As I looked around at all the wonders (with my now dog-eared catalogs in hand) I asked my Mom how much I could spend. "Here's the check I made out to the shop," she said handing me the check. "Keep it under that." It was made out to Bently's, dated and signed by my Mom, but otherwise blank. Even a 14 year-old knows what a "blank check" is.
I didn't go completely crazy, I knew we didn't have a money tree, but I spent $163 that day. That was a lot of magic in 1974. A Square Circle, a Lota Bowl, Card Frame, a few books (but not enough, my only regret from that day) and a ton of other stuff: Some of which I still have.
The moping teenager was gone and "Dusty's Magic Show" was taking shape! By the time we moved onto the boat the following October (my Mom, Dad, brother, three cats and me), magic was the only thing that interested me. School certainly held little interest. In my senior year, and because of a less than stellar attendance record, my American Government teacher (who was an admitted socialist) hauled me into a parent teacher conference because, he said, I was in danger of failing a required class for graduation. My Mom--God bless her--told the teacher that I was probably going to be a professional magician anyway and that his version of American Government was not what she (a Democrat) would expect to see taught in a public school and what did his boss think of his curriculum? Amazingly, I received a C in a class I was supposedly going to fail without ever changing my work habits. These included card fans, coin rolls and political arguments with the teacher (by this time I was actually quite interested in politics and was a registered Republican--I turned 18 while still in high school because of my December birth date): acing the final helped, I'm sure.
During those high school years, my Mom would continue to subsidize my habit. I acquired more books through her library contact and had also discovered Genii magazine, MYI (Magical Youths International), Tannens and (once I could drive) Hollywood Magic in Costa Mesa. Every Christmas I could expect a "big" item. Because my birthday fell close to Christmas it was always justified to my brother that it was a "birthday and Christmas combined gift." I still remember opening the box that contained my "Sucker Die Box" (that was the first Christmas on the boat--the same year as the first trip to Bently's); it actually took my breath away I was so excited. Another gift one year was the complete Tarbell Course (my Grandma was in on that one too). Mom paid for my annual subscription to Genii, my dues to MYI and she also paid for my first several conventions: registration, room and money for "stuff." Even as an adult she would "loan" me a little cash (for "stuff" only) when I would head off for a convention and she knew that things were a little fiscally tight in my household.
Most of this was, obviously, nonverbal encouragement, but I appreciated it then and even more so now. A few months ago I reminded her just how much she has meant to me and my magic. I never became a professional, but my wife and I did give her the granddaughter she so desperately wanted (and later a grandson) and I had to support them: she understood that. But I still feel like I owe her. Perhaps there's still time for me to fulfill her dream. However, if it does happen, she will not be there to see it. I lost my Mom last night after a long, courageous battle with lung cancer: A fight she really didn't want to fight. We lost my Dad in 1997 and she was never quite the same; she wanted to be with him, but she fought for us. Even though we told her from the beginning that we would support whatever decision she made, she knew we wanted her to fight. It was yet another selfless act from someone who sacrificed everything for her family and never asked for anything in return; except for maybe a fudge brownie now and again.
Saturday, the last time I saw her awake, I fed her some chocolate pie. She seemed to enjoy it well enough, but I wished it had been a fudge brownie. She loved fudge brownies.
Thanks for everything Mom. I love you,