by K. Ward
How does Helena make a birthday wish come true?
|Helena loved to celebrate holidays and birthdays. Every year, she and her family would celebrate Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, May Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They would also celebrate their birthdays. Every Valentine’s Day, they would put up a flag with a heart pierced with an arrow which exclaimed, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” They would also buy flowers for the table and exchange cards. On St. Patrick’s Day, they would wear green and eat corned beef and cabbage for dinner. On May Day, they often would attend a maypole ceremony with their neighborhood community picnic. On Independence Day, they would drive out to the fireworks with a picnic basket, and as the fireflies flickered their lights on and off, they would pour the sparkling apple cider and eat their peanut butter and banana sandwiches, along with Sunchips and orange slices. On Halloween, they did a lot of seasonal activities. They would decorate their house with fake spider webs, stuffed monsters, a jack ‘o lantern, and play spooky music like, “Monster Mash.” They would set out bowls of candy, the kind depending upon which year. On Thanksgiving, usually, the relatives would visit. Mom would bake a turkey with dressing, stir some gravy, and make several dishes, including mashed potatoes, yams, and fresh green beans. She would slice the cranberry jelly and Helena would set the table. On Christmas, everyone would exchange gifts and play carols, like, “Silent Night.” The birthdays they celebrated a little differently. They figured they must always have pizza, chips, soda pop, cake, candles, ice cream, and sing, “Happy Birthday.” But there was one odd occurrence to each of their celebrations: they would never make a wish blowing out their candles, because they were not superstitious. Mom and Dad used to say, “What if some of the candles remain lit?” And they repeated themselves. Helena knew it was their kindness. But how indeed could she make a wish come true, then?
On the night before her sixteenth birthday, she lay on her bed, feet up behind her, and played with her old rag doll named Penelope. Helena thought about her birthday the next day. She dreamed and wondered if there were some way she could make a wish come true, without making one at the birthday cake. She wished for: a boyfriend. Should she wish upon a shooting star? Or maybe just a star? Should she drop a penny into a wishing well? Should she try to find a four-leaf clover? Finding a four-leaf clover was difficult, and it was nighttime. There were no wishing wells nearby. Shooting stars, too, were difficult to spot. And even the stars were covered by clouds tonight. Helena thought she’d invent a new way to make a wish that would come true: she would wish for it by itself. And so she did. The next day, Helena and her family celebrated her birthday. She wore a pink party dress and three of her friends visited. After the pizza and pop music, her parents brought out the cake with lit candles. They sang, “Happy Birthday.” Helena blew out every single one of the candles. And then her friends, who did not know about their family tradition, said, “Make a wish.” And because birthday wishes are supposed to be silent, Helena paused, but did not tell them about their family tradition. Her parents did not say anything, either. But Helena wondered about the wish she made yesterday. She was sure it counted. Helena got a sparkling silver necklace with her initial, H, on it. She got a gift card to the Starbuck’s coffeehouse. She got stationery with pink and violet flowers on its glossy surface. From her parents, she got books and an MP-3 player with a music gift card. She got candy and money from her grandmothers. When the party ended, she thanked her guests for coming. She brought her presents upstairs and lay down on her bed again. Would the wish come true? The next day, Helena opened her eyes to the sun casting its daylight onto her ceiling. She felt happy. But she wanted her wish to come true. She looked and looked for a boyfriend. She went to the mall with one of her other friends. She looked through the crowd to try to spot boys her age. They walked past the video arcade, but not one boy looked her way. At school, she looked and looked through the halls to try to spot a boy who smiled at her. She could find no one. When she got home, she drew pictures of a boy she imagined would date her. She drew a dance floor, one she realized she wanted to be for her senior prom, on which she and a boy were dancing. She did not name her character, because she thought it would be too risky to even guess, that it would not happen the way she planned if she were too specific. She drew several pictures of his face. She wished she were old enough for online dating. She told her friend, Molly, to help her look for a boy to, “go out with.” Molly approached her one week after she made her request and said, “I found someone for you.” And Helena said, “Who is it?” “His name is Eddy.” And Helena had never heard such a name. She had not known he existed. She knew her wish had come true. Helena was not superstitious, but she did want her wish to happen. She reflected about having a desire for something versus whether we should actually have what we want. A wish, either made by a shooting star or by itself, is not enough for it to come true, but because she earnestly desired it, and it came true. But here was the catch: she desired so much she did not want to gamble with it, but rather wish upon what was truth. She might not have been able to find a shooting star. The stars were invisible that night, under a sheet of clouds. She could not find wishing well. And she could definitely not find a four-leaf clover, especially in the dark. She might not have been able to blow out her birthday candles. She did not want to be disappointed, so much that she listened to and agreed with her parents. Gambling with it was the possibility of disappointment. She knew that she would always get her wish when she did not take a risk. It was faith. And faith brought her something she truly desired.