The creep of age is subtle, often missed in the onslaught of days and nights, shifts and paychecks, that compose an American life.
For most, though, it is a degeneration of sorts, from the innocent to the jaded, from imagination and wonder to the tired expectations of middle age.
Grant yourself three wishes and notice the results.
Our most fervent desire in later decades is to be relieved of burdens, to ease pain, to stuff accounts with mounds of cash, to essentially ease the passage of our remaining days so that we avoid the suffering under every rock, behind every door.
At our best, we might wish to also ease the burdens of others, our loved ones most likely, to better equip them and ourselves to undertake this life.
Because these adult wishes come from fear. At some point, we’ve suffered so much pain and discomfort, shame and guilt, that our operative motivations almost always spring from the fear that follows. Having broken a leg, we know it hurts. And this lingering impression of hurt, gleaned from the violent agonies of a splintered long bone, makes us cowards in the face of repeated injury.
Natural enough, sure. But also sad.
Tally the wounds in your life, physical and otherwise, and you sketch the outline of your adult sensibilities. The fear-stiffened border walls of the grown-up soul.
Luckily for the world, not so with children.
Wishes of course make up a vast wonderland of possibilities for children everywhere. See a falling star? Make a wish. Blow out birthday candles? Make a wish. Wrest the larger splinter of a bird bone away from your ornery older brother? Make a wish.
Say you scatter all the dandelion spores in one fell gust of hot air? Lord knows you have plenty. You make a goddamn wish.
Hell, even drop a nickel in the toilet and you can make a wish. After all, aren’t kids, one and all, nothing but Goonies at heart, stuck in the wet atrium beneath the wishing well where such wishes go to die?
It’s their time. It’s their time down there.
The most ardent wishers, therefore, are these kids — some time after the age of 6 until they sprout enough body hair to insulate their souls from the aching possibilities of magic around age 11 or 12.
They are the magicians of the imaginative mind, the conjurers of spirit, the sorcerers of sweet possibility. I savor every sign of their magick, every sudden spell wrought to serve so grand a purpose as granting the world more mystery.
My daughter Sophia recently brought such to my attention after she’d wished on a bright streak of fire that only for a second seemed to split the sky in half.
I reminded her of the cardinal rule of wish-casting — loose lips sink ships. Or, she who dishes kills her wishes.
But lovely Sophia, always lost in the magic world of her own making, just smiled at me. Her eyes glinted with joy.
“I always make the same wish,” she said, looking around and over my shoulder as if expecting to see the results immediately materialize. Later, my wife laughed as she heard the story and told me she’d overheard said wish on several occasions. Sophia, above all else in this wide world, wished that unicorns were real.
Her desire is fervent enough to require deep focus, and often when in process she will whisper the words to herself as she balls her hands into fists and drops a dirty nickel in the well to try and change the world.
For the better, I would say.
I’m no cryptozoologist, but if any animal in the mythic rosters were to become real — a menu that includes such legendary luminaries as Bigfoot, the Yeti, Nessie, chupacabra, pegasi, etc. — unicorns would be it.
For one thing, the collective feminine mood in the world would brighten considerably and for a considerable length of time as latent girlhood fantasies were suddenly, magically, made real.
Instead of wishing for riches, or smarts, a big house or a fast car, Sophia wished for a bit of play magic to be made wondrously real. She took an inherently selfish act — casting a wish to realize deepest desires — and deployed it generously.
God, I love her. For saving the world one wish at a time, every time, and for living the dream for all of us.
James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at email@example.com.