Children are given lots of opportunities to wish for things: Birthday candles, first stars, hay trucks (possibly this one only exists in the country but we used to make a wish if a hay truck passed our car while driving). I don’t think that I was an extremely morbid child but at birthdays, dusk, or on the highway I only made one wish: “Please don’t let anyone I love die.” Wishing seemed like big business as a kid and I was very afraid of screwing it up. Wishes didn’t seem to come true very often and I was sure that this had something to do with the wishers not properly adhering to the rules.
I took time to construct my wishes before making them, I figured I had to be careful not to accidentally make more than one wish or give the powers that be (TPTB) a chance to scam me. Obviously influenced by cartoons in which the protagonist was tricked by an overly literal genie I felt an obligation to make my wishes very clear. I worried that the “anyone I love” qualifier was not precise enough and, if I had time, handed over a specific list of people with the wish. I was also afraid of wishing for something overly selfish in case there was some trade being made that I was not fully aware of. I could never let go of how awful I’d feel if TPTB brought me a bright shiny new bike and took away my mom.
Today I don’t make as many wishes. Occasionally I do look up at the darkening sky and spotting the first twinkle get wistful for wishing, but the right request is harder to come by. People will die and while I often consider asking for long happy lives all around I’ve become a bit more able to accept that everyone’s time will ultimately be too short and that asking to change that is probably futile. Lately I’ve been feeling sad and am tempted to wish for the most immediately obvious solutions but I don’t feel like I can trust my own judgment. I find myself wishing for vague concepts “help me find the right path to happiness,” “show me what the answers are.” On top of sounding like the target market for Dr. Phil I know I’m just asking for the genie to hand over a map of the most direct route to the store or a list of the correct replies to tomorrow night’s Jeopardy questions.