Wishes were taken seriously. They were solemn and profound things. To properly wish upon the first star of evening you had to say the little rhyme; “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.” To wish on a falling star you had to move fast, lest it disappear!
You never told anyone the content of your wish. There was a sacred trust of sorts between the wisher and the universe, and breaking that trust would jinx the wish. If the magic of wishing was true, then certainly, the jinxing magic was just as true. I always wished for the same thing, smugly thinking that I had covered all of my bases by wishing in broad strokes that anticipated any eventuality. I wished for a perfect life. Well, I suspect that no one has a perfect life, nor am I certain what such a thing would look like, as it is both the good and bad events that forge us into the people we are. But kids are not adults, and a perfect life was my default wish.
Wishing, I knew, was somehow pointless even as a kid. My father would tell me, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride,” which upset me doubly as prior to the epiphany of the broad strokes wish, all of my wishes had been horse based. Adults don’t wish for things. We have largely learned that things happen for a reason, and that reason is never magical in nature. There is cause and effect and luck, and those largely define our lives.
The reason I bring all of this up was because the other night I watched a meteorite streak across the sky, and without thinking I began to append my default wish – long past its efficacy date – to its fiery tail. It was habitual, but I caught myself and let the streak of light wink out of sight while I thought that I should do something better – more productive – than engage in the childlike habit of wishing. Rather than wishing, I elected to be thankful for what I have. Instead of placing magical wishes upon a rock skimming across our atmosphere, I will now gaze up at the bright star-brushed night and be thankful. Thankful that I am here, that I have this view; that I have love and friends and beauty all around me. I am thankful that I no longer need to hang wishes on the heavens, but that I can look to them in thanks and reverence at all that I have.
Beggars don’t ride horses (for any number of reasons, including the fact that public transportation has moved on a bit since the origin of a lot of my father’s sayings), but the world is big and beautiful, and for as much as the world seems terrifying and strange at times, we live in a better time than we ever have before, and our world, the small little piece of it that we own and live in, is better every day.
Let children wish, and for any who cares to use my top secret all-encompassing wish, I hope it lands them in a wonderful place. For me, however, I will give thanks to the first star, and the falling stars, and the tiny points of light that light up birthday cakes.