Grandmothers and the Marvelous Magical Real

Thursday, February 15, 2024

 By Christy O'Callaghan

“The narrator doesn’t get upset when out-of-this-world things happen, nor does he dismiss them or try to explain them. That would be considered disrespectful to the Grandmothers.” —Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez 

To best understand and respect a form like the Magical Marvelous Real, one must first understand and respect Grandmothers. So often, this style is misunderstood or forced into boxes that don’t fit. Familial relationships can suffer from the same problem of being placed into a single box labeled family, but each connection has its own vibe. The role of mothers and daughters is too much reality. That’s a whole other style of writing. The relationship of child to child is too much magic. That’s where Fantasy and Surrealism truly shine. The beautiful balance of grandmother and granddaughter is the deliciously perfect combination of marvelousness and realism. Grandmothers are the keepers of dreams and the teachers of life. They are the core and the heart of what makes Magical Realism so unique.

To be fair, this isn’t all individual grandmothers. Some are just plain awful. That’s where fairy tales come in. This is about the more significant role and concept of Grandmothers. They are the holders of dream worlds and the passers of secrets. Grandmothers perform magic in our everyday lives. They turn a bunch of ingredients into cookies. Wood into a birdhouse. A pile of material and thread into a new dress. Skeins of yarn into mittens. A bushel of apples into sauce and pie. A dull day into an adventure in the forest. Seeds and dirt into a garden and then into a snack. Words on a page into a world. Bedtime into an experience. And if asked nicely, they will turn children’s hands into creators of magic, too.

Grandmothers play an essential role in children’s lives. They are both the marvelousness and reality. They may slap hands one minute, then offer a cookie with a shhh; don’t tell your mother the next. In their lifetimes, they’re witnesses to the best and worst of our world. Then they’re charged with creating bubbles of protection for the young. They weave tales as lessons for children to face the world head-on with courage and pride. Magical Realism’s writing style is a beautiful tribute to those who came before us and, at the same time, is a lovely expression of our everyday lives.

Grandmothers share their hidden selves with their grandchildren, especially granddaughters. My grandmother had a public persona she showed outsiders, including her closest friends. Always using proper table manners. Her clothes were perfectly hemmed, cleaned, and ironed. Her halo of white hair was styled once a week at the salon. And boy, did she make a wicked strong highball. But in her private world, she knew the names of plants as she walked through the woods and collected bleached bones and shells to display on her shelf. Her white Keds never had a splotch of mud. She loved dirty jokes. Especially raunchy cards. And when those she cared for most in the world left her company, she brushed her fingertips on their shoulder and said, “Here’s a guardian angel to protect you.”

So why is this so important in writing The Magical Marvelous Real? Because the specific beauty of this style is bringing together those magical elements with a detailed world of the real. This style is dependent upon the two working together in harmony. The hand slap and the secret cookie. Grandmothers provide unlimited love. A love that doesn’t come at a price. But often, they are the ones who introduce the feeling and knowledge of loss. For many, they are the first loved one who dies. We learn about the varied layers of life from them. For some of us, they played the role of a parent or a second parent when life fell a little short.

Grandmothers share their world, the pain, and the joy. They tell tales of a time without the modern technology we depend on. They talk about a life when they were young with no wrinkles and a full head of colorful hair. And what your mother was like as a child. They shield as best they can and protect with their tales and beliefs. There is so much misunderstanding and misdefined about MMR. It’s not a form of Fantasy. It’s not surrealism. It’s not realism. It’s a balance of the real world and the marvelousness that comes from, well, Grandmothers.


Christy O'Callaghan
Christy O’Callaghan is a writer and Developmental Editor with an MA in English from SUNY Albany. She is Editor in Chief of Barzakh Literary Magazine and the 2023 SUNY Thayer Arts Fellowship finalist for writing. She spent twenty-two years in community organizing and education. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Great Weather for Media, Splash! with Haunted Waters Press, Flyway Journal, Trolley Journal, Sonder Review, Chestnut Review, and more.

Christy is teaching the four-week WOW Zoom workshop, Making the Mundane Magnificent with the Marvelous Magical Real starting March 5th. For more details, visit this page.


Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top