That First Wish

Mountain climber, concoction maker, soldier, nurse, mom, farmer, writer, teacher, forest ranger, social worker, singer; I wanted to be a lot of things growing up. Tucked in bed one side pulled tighter than the other by the weight of my mother sitting next to me singing in Gaelic as I nodded off to sleep, I desperately wanted to be a singer just like her so that I could sing lullabies to my children at night. Attaching & disconnecting tubes, changing bandages around her tiny plastic head, giving shots to Turtledove as she lay motionless in the small wooden crib, all I wanted to be was a nurse to cure her of every dreaded disease just like my mom. Click, clack, shhhhh, clack, click, clack, hearing the music of chalk on the chalkboard I longed to be able to create the same magical sounds with chalk some day. Hunched over pouring, dripping, adding a dash, swishing, stirring, shaking until enough of the perfect combination of this and that exploded – ahhh the ecstasy chemistry. There were so many things I wanted to be. If I could have found a way to be them all I would have.

Interestingly, they all boiled down to one thing, my first wish was to be free. Free meant strong. Free meant able. I wonder if everyone forgets their first wish as they get older. And, if they don’t, how did they keep it alive? My mother had wishes for me too – they also centered around freedom: freedom from want; freedom to be happy and live my dreams; freedom from struggle; freedom to follow my faith, freedom from pain. I can’t remember what my mother thought about each of the potential professions I cycled through as a child, but she dutifully signed my handmade military recruitment forms; brought home any discarded tubing, medicine cups and left-over medical supplies to use in my corner ICU; and, generally encouraged me in all my future endeavors.

It wasn’t until I said I wanted to be a teacher that she looked alarmed. Agast, wide-eyed, disdain creeping around the curl of her lips, nostrils flared, she declared teaching to be the most horrible of professions and forewarned me of the horror that awaited if I dared to follow that path.

She had gone to teacher training because her father had made her. He was a principal and probably thought it was “a fine profession.” She got only past some version of student teaching, despising every moment of it. The single redeeming aspect of her dreaded time teaching were her encounters with two young children, a girl, and boy whose names I have long since forgotten though I heard them as many times as she told the story. Her eyes, generally dark and ominous as she sermonized the ordeals of teaching would suddenly sparkle as she whispered about these two. They were bad. The worst. The most outrageous children in the entire school, and, she loved them. Giggling over their exploits, their fighting, the unraveling of the toilet paper and stuffing it into the toilet incident, she would describe in great detail how they terrorized the teachers at the school, and I could tell she adored them for it. But, in the end, the two were not enough of a draw to keep her teaching. She quit, confessed to her father and enrolled in nursing school in England.

I toyed with becoming a nurse later in life, and while it didn’t hold the same level of disgust in her mind, she had begun to sour on the politics of nursing and so dissuaded me from that as well. What she yearned for, dreamed about, and hoped for was that I would become a singer. As enchanting as that sounded, my calculations told me that it wasn’t a sure bet on the security side of things. Somebody has got to pay the bills! Spending my entire upbringing shopping at “The Nearly New” shop was not what I wanted for my future. Internally I revolted, swearing I would never wash tinfoil or ziplock bags in my own home. To this day, it makes me feel good every time I throw them out. While I briefly considered teaching music with a minor in performance, I quickly reconsidered. After already having switched from biology to English, I was determined to have a job with benefits and a pension. There would be time for singing and writing on the side – rock climbing too if I wanted.

Forty-two years have rushed by with dizzying speed, and I find myself asking, “What about that first wish, the one that pulled me out of myself, yanking and tugging insistently?”

I hadn’t needed much faith to be practical. In an effort to woo me toward following my crazy dreams, Mom would quote Ephesians 3:20-21 to me; “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” Thinking back I realize I’ve worked hard; done my best; helped children and adults grow throughout my career, so maybe, just maybe it’s time to dust off that first wish.

Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

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