December 25th, 2009
06:48 AM ET

The magic stick

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/24/stick.angle.1.copy.jpg caption="THE ACTUAL STICK"]

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

My son's most treasured possession these days is a stick. It's an ordinary looking stick. But I’m told it has extraordinary powers.

Can you imagine what powers this stick possesses?

My son can.

He's adept at wielding that stick.

He leaps with it in hand from the couch, to the coffee table, to the chair.

If you're near him (and he knows not to swing the stick when anyone else is too near) you can faintly hear sound effects and dialogue that you can't quite make out. An action movie in whispers.

At one point the other night, in the middle of the action, he paused for a second and declared: "This stick is amazing!"

Why is it amazing, I asked him.

"It can do like 20 things at the same time."

Like what?

"It can be a knife. Or a gun."

But it was number three that thrilled me.

"Look," he illustrated with the fingers of his left hand - "You can even practice cello positions on it!"

Where did you get that stick, I asked.

"From Donny."

Donny was my son's first cello teacher.

We hadn't been in touch with Donny for more than a year. I didn't have his latest contact information. So I found him on Facebook, and got a call back within a couple of hours. Like magic.

"I made the stick myself," Donny told me.

He explained that the stick was part of a Suzuki instructor-training course he attended.

The idea, said Donny, is that sliding the stick back and forth - like a cello bow - through a special hand crafted hollow piece of wood, "is the easiest way for a beginning student to become comfortable with pulling a bow along a certain path."

I described for Donny how the stick had taken on new dimensions in my son's hands, including as a device for practicing his left cello hand positions.

Donny sounded happy.

"He's made it his own tool. Which is way better than anything you can be told to do by your teacher."

I was uncomfortable about one thing.

Donny wrote his own name on the stick, very neatly.

"Do you have other sticks," I asked him.

"No," he said. "That's the only one I ever made."

The only one he ever made? His name written on it by hand?

I hesitated but felt obligated to ask the next question. Did Donny want his stick back?

"I would love for your son to keep it." And he added, "I don't have a need for it any more."

That stick is so versatile, I called one of the most creative photographers I know to try and capture its essence.

Look at the photo carefully.

Can you imagine the power of that stick?

I measured it out of curiosity. It's only 24 inches long. The diameter is about the same as my pinkie.

Do you think a stick that size can do as many things as my son says it can?

I'll defer to my son on that. The stick will remain in our family.

A tool of my son's imagination.

My son's former cello teacher, Donny, doesn't need it any more because he has returned to college and is preparing to go to medical school. He wants to focus on neurology - to study the mysteries of the brain.

I told my son I was writing this story.

I told him I was thinking about calling it "The Magic Stick."

He approved.

I thought that was the end of the story.

Then I came home the next night.

"Where's the stick," my son asked.

It's with the photographer, I said. I'll get it back in a couple of days.

This upset him. He didn't want the stick to be out of his possession. He didn't care that I had a master photographer capturing the iconic image for all time.

I tried to assure him his stick was safe.

A few minutes later, I saw him wielding the plastic sheath of a plastic sword I think he won at a carnival.

It seemed to have the same powers as the stick.

It turns out, it's not the stick that's magic.

Filed under: Michael Schulder • Parenting
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Tim Gibson

    The magic is the mind and heart, the belief. These are treasures that perhaps our congress should explore.

    December 28, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  2. emma

    nice story on the day jesus was born!

    December 28, 2009 at 8:39 am |
  3. Cathy

    What an amazing story, it really put a smile on my face and made me take a second look at the jabbering my 2 year old does as he's waving around the simplest things he finds laying around. A calculator, a paper towel roll (see link), and yes, sometimes even a stick.
    Great article, thanks for sharing!

    December 27, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  4. Rachel Oliver

    Dear father,
    My son Donny was very touched by your story. It is a great honor for
    him that your son treasures the "magic stick"he made for him. Donny
    always gives his best to his students! It is a family"tradition", although
    I am a musician too, he never told me about it.
    Thanks to your interesting article I learned something new...
    Being a pianist the cello is my favorite instrument.

    I wish your son the best & to love the cello as Donny does !
    Happy New Year. Rachel

    December 26, 2009 at 8:29 am |
  5. Jorge A. Pensacola, FL

    Beautiful. For some strange reason, I couldn't keep a single, lonely teardrop from slowly sliding down my cheek. Thank you for this story, as it resonates loudly with me.

    December 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm |