I was seven, and therefore well aware that those wishes would not come true, but she was my little sister, and she had been through enough that week, it wasn’t my place to shatter all her illusions of genies, and magic, and wishes come true.
So I sat down in the grass, and she floated around me, waving her hands, and humming lightly (for that is what she believed a genie would do). I pondered my wishes for several moments – tempted back to the world children younger than seven inhabit, a world where my wishes could matter, where they would come true – and finally I sat up straight, a gleam in my eye (for Nancy’s sake, not because I believed), and I told her of my wishes.
The first, I knew she needed. I wished for our father to come home. Five days earlier, we had heard the muffled sounds of shouting and arguing as we lay in bed. Nancy had climbed in beside me, and, huddled together, we tried, for the thirteenth time in as many days, to sleep through the discomforting sounds. The following morning, our father was gone when we awoke.
Nancy smiled, and waved her hands more energetically, and I continued to my second wish. A simpler wish this time, a wish one might expect from a seven year old – if one expected seven year olds to believe in wishes. I wished for a dog. More specifically a cute little stray black dog that had wandered into our yard the previous week.
Nancy’s eyes widened and she nodded enthusiastically as she continued to circle me – making me dizzy, so she herself must have been close to toppling over – clearly, she approved of that wish also.
My third wish was for the future; my dreams for my life. I wished for a husband, and a daughter – or son, I didn’t want to be too picky, I could love a son just as much – and happiness.
Nancy giggled at that one. She always giggled whenever we spoke about growing up. At her age, being grown up was amusing. At seven years old, I knew that you had to start planning for your future as soon as possible.
So my wishes were made, Nancy mumbled some combination of sounds – genie language – and we continued to play in the grass.
A week later when our father did come home, and trotting along behind him was the cute little black dog, we were far too excited to remember the wishes I’d made. It never occurred to Nancy that they had come true – and, as I didn’t even believe in wishing, it didn’t occur to me either. We had our father, we had our dog. I was seven, she was five: there wasn’t much else we needed.
My third wish, obviously, came true many years later. A husband, a daughter, and despite the downfall of the marriage, I’ve still been happy for the majority of my adult life. Of course, again, I didn’t realise that magic was at work; that I was getting what I had asked for all those years ago while sitting in a field.
Tonight, as I sat beside my daughter in our garden chairs, looking up at the night sky, a shooting star streaked across the darkness. Lindsey grinned in amazement and declared that we should each make a wish.
I began to laugh it off, but an image of a little black dog flitted into my mind, and the memory of that afternoon flooded back: the memory of wishes that did come true.
I rested my head against the back of the chair, and looked up at the other twinkling stars. If I were to wish upon a star, what would I wish for?
It was a memory of a mirror, of a bowtie, of my hands rested on Gil’s shoulders, that appeared this time, and I smiled sadly. Wishing for Gil was a wish that was unlikely to come true.
“Did you make a wish, Mom?” Lindsey asked me.
I rolled my head to the side to face her. “I’ve had my three wishes in life,” I told her, and I recounted the story of ‘Nancy the Genie’.
When I’d finished she was smiling, and then she shrugged, and whispered conspiratorially, “Who’s to say we’re only allowed three wishes in life?”
I laughed and returned my gaze to the sky. “The only wish I’ve got left won’t be coming true,” I sighed.
“Mom,” she whispered, and then paused until I had turned to face her. “It’s magic. You never know what might happen.”