Best Wishes

“A wishing star!” When my daughters were in preschool, each glowing fleck in a dusky night was a bright smile, a reason to exclaim, a Big Chance. “Another wishing star!” “Another one!” Every single star was the best and brightest they’d ever beheld. Openhearted optimism is a beautiful thing.

We would make easy wishes, for bubbles or rainbow sprinkles on our ice cream or more wishing stars, and we would enjoy our wishes coming true. Making your own luck with openhearted optimism is a beautiful thing.

Could one unfortunate aspect of maturity be that we forget to make wishes? Still, the universe doesn’t lose its magic just because we lose sight of it. In fact, in the great flow and balance of energy that is apparently the Divine, it seems that magic pokes at us more insistently the more we push it away. Couldn’t synchronicity be a way we make wishes that we are not admitting to ourselves?

Recently I had both enjoyed and been pained by a hopeful love affair that had sputtered out on the fuse before we could get to any big boom. I had let my heart open quickly, operating on the faith that openheartedness is a good thing. Now, I was quietly grousing to myself over a white mocha at Jo’s Coffee Shop, uncomfortably reviewing the relationship’s arc and making all sorts of resolutions to avoid such feelings again rather than just let the hurt hurt. I was also inattentively skimming Jack Kerouac’s On The Road for my book club. He and his crazy best friend had just crossed the border into Mexico.

Rather than just getting into a great book and getting on with it, I was lecturing myself. “I’m such a softie! I’m too idealistic! That’s it! I gotta toughen up. I gotta play it cooler next time. I gotta hold back!” You know, the usual prophylactic emotional avoidance tactics that aren’t what our hearts really wish for but are dangerously attractive at just those times we will grow only if we are a lot braver.

At that very moment, really sure that this time I had learned, this time I was becoming more emotionally mature, and next time the next man was going to have to really work for it, I glanced up and saw, painted in giant azure blue script on a corrugated tin wall that I’d walked past, sat alongside, and leaned against innumerable times:

“Derange Pas Ta Tendresse: Don’t Break Your Tenderness” Jack Kerouac, Mexico City Blues, 122nd Chorus

I call synchronicity GodWhacks, and I was definitely thumped upside the head right then, and in shock. I blushed, giggled, and relaxed profoundly. I just let the hurt hurt, smiling all the while. Now, I’m just wishing for my next Big Chance to open my heart quickly.

In elementary school, my daughter Larkin was once assigned to write a sentence and draw a picture describing her best memory. “I remember my Mommy took me on top of the car to see the Perseid meteor shower.” I was floored, both that she remembered, that her teacher would think I had strapped her to the luggage rack, and that she had learned to spell “Perseid” right in the process. Two years before, I had been wishing to finally do one of the many cool kid things that I kept in monthly files and, month after month, never quite made time to do. One mid-August, I was finally cracking open the August file and discovered that the Perseids were peaking that very day, August 14th. City lights are too bright for most shooting stars, so I impulsively threw a four year old into our Volvo at nine o’clock at night and drove to my parents’ farm on a high bluff outside of town.

At 10:30 p.m., I maneuvered a good-natured but seriously sleepy angel onto the roof of the station wagon, wrapped us up like a burrito in a thick quilt, and stared together, straight up. For a long time. The Milky Way blanketed us also, stars abounded, but not a shooting one in the bunch. For a long time.

Finally, maybe, I saw something near the horizon. I cried, “A shooting star!” Larkin had been asleep and missed it. We whispered and giggled and remained optimistic, but forty five minutes later as I was checking my watch, she chirped, “Another shooting star!” I hid my disappointment in the dark. One hour after that, we both saw the best and brightest half-second of light we’d ever beheld, and then we drove home in the inky peace.

In Larkin’s drawing, every single star streaks across her sky, sparks and hope and all of her wishes flying in bright lines from their tails.