Most moments are just that. Fleeting instances in which nothing much happens. You feed the cat, boil the kettle, maybe check your email. When the moment ends, you are much the same person as you were when it began.

Some moments are different.  In everybody’s life there are moments where you quite unexpectedly turn into somebody else. Like a reluctant caterpillar, you emerge from a chrysalis you hadn’t even known you inhabited and find that everything has changed.

I have been alive for thirty-seven years, and I have had only two such moments. One occurred when I gave birth and found myself wonderfully and terrifyingly transformed into a mum. And the other took place much earlier, when at the age of twenty-two I suddenly became a person who had lost her own mother.

I have been thinking a lot about these transformative moments today, as I heard the news first of Peaches Geldof’s death and then that of the two doctors who died trying to save their children. Between them, they leave four small children who, though some are too young to know it, experienced their own pivotal moment today. This morning they all had mummies, and now they do not, and they never will again. I can’t help wondering who has been given the terrible task of explaining to these children that their mummies are not coming home. I keep imagining how anyone could possibly break such news and hoping desperately that no-one ever has to do it for my daughter.

Such are the moments upon which life turns. You receive some news, and in the few seconds it takes for you to hear and digest it, you turn entirely against your will into a different sort of person. Suddenly you are a bereaved person, a person whose mother or brother or father or sister has died, and you have no idea how to be that individual . You have to learn how to live the story that turns out to be yours, even though it is a story you never wanted to hear.

Most days, we start and end the day as roughly the same person. Some days, we don’t. Today has reminded me to be grateful for those duller times, for the days we stay the same. For the reassurance and the comfort of inconsequential moments.

I’ve never been good at magic tricks. I haven’t the patience to learn: the constant repetition, perfecting each sleight of hand, seems like far too much bother. Even the magic sets you get in crackers are too complicated for me: especially when I could be tucking into mince pies and Bailey’s instead.

No, I am certainly no Paul Daniels. I’m not even Debbie Magee. But this year, for the first time ever,  I will get to do a little bit of magic.

It isn’t a conjuring feat or a disappearing act, and I’m certainly not going to saw anyone in half (I can’t even carve a turkey). No, I am going to perform a wonderful trick, one that I saw every year as a child: the miracle of Christmas morning.

Do you remember it? I’m sure you do. You’d open your eyes in the black winter’s night, and even before you switched on the light, the magic began. Maybe a flash of tinsel at the end of your bed. Maybe the muffled rustle of a stocking being hung from your door: was it your mum? Or was it Santa? You weren’t sure, but you didn’t look, in case you broke the spell.

And in the morning, the miracle. You went downstairs and, holding your breath, you peeked round the living room door. And there, where last night had been nothing but a plain old Christmas tree, lay a spectacular carnival of gifts. Big parcels, gaudily wrapped. Small items tucked into the gaps, promising chocolate or a cassette tape or a toy car. The tree lights sparkling cheerful and bright – had they been on all night? Or had they mysteriously switched themselves on as you got up? The whole scene was a wonderland, and the endless day lay gloriously before you.

No, I’m certainly no Paul Daniels. But now I don’t have to be: I’m a parent. We get to put on the best magical displays of all, and we get to do it year after year, with top hats and magic wands nowhere in sight.

Merry Christmas, to magical mums and dads everywhere.

Recently, my brother sent me some photos of us when we were small. I loved looking through them, but seeing my six-year-old self was an odd experience. That smiling, goofy, posturing child with wispy hair, long white socks and much-loved Snoopy sunglasses has little in common with me.

I spend my days looking after my baby, holding down a responsible job and running a home. That chubby-cheeked little girl’s days were spent exploring the world at nursery, playing games in the garden and dreaming of the day she might own a Sindy house.

But there is one interest that still unites us, that gap-toothed girl and I. Both of us are never happier than when we are curled up somewhere quiet and cosy, somewhere nobody can find us, utterly lost in the universe of a book. Some of my happiest memories of childhood are not memories at all but stories. Mallory Towers, the Chalet School, Nancy Drew, the Famous Five: these were the stories that kept me company when the real world was just a little too scary.

These days I get less time to read. And it’s harder to hide away when there’s an eight-month-old baby depending on you. But every so often, I still manage to creep into a quiet room, switch on the lamp, tuck my feet under me and let a writer – maybe a contemporary author, maybe someone who died many years before I was born – sweep me away.

No, I don’t recognise much about that little girl from long ago. But I think she’d be glad to know that even in the big bad grown-up world, she will always find joy in a book.