I got home from the Virginia game late on Saturday night and this was waiting for me:
A container of personalized New York Football Giants M&Ms – a present from my college roommate who had to suffer through years of my football obsession while she was trying to get her molecular biology homework done.
As I was standing in the kitchen eating them (I hadn’t had dinner after all), the words jumped out at me.
Make a wish.
That is the essence of loving any sports team, isn’t it?
Unlike the rest of your life, where you carry with you the weight of regret based on decisions and choices you made decades ago or yesterday, each new season of sports brings hope. Whether it’s football or basketball or soccer or swimming, every year you start anew. Every season brings a shot at winning it all. Every year you can make a wish and believe that it will come true.
Do you remember when you were younger and you used to make a wish on a green M&M? If I remember correctly, the ritual was to kiss it and then swirl it around your head three times while silently beseeching the M&M gods to fulfill whatever it was that your 12 year old heart desired at that exact moment. Looking back, I can’t say that any of those wishes ever came true but damned if I didn’t fervently believe that they would. Good grief. It’s a miracle Yale ever gave me a diploma.
And yet there are more ways to make wishes than fishes in the sea. A coin in a fountain. The first star in the evening sky. A stray eyelash. A dandelion. Birthday candles. Green M&Ms.
Over the year, I’ve had many wishes. When I was little, my wishes mostly centered on things: a new Barbie, a pet, some glittery piece of pink plastic. A lot of those wishes came true, less because of any wishing rituals and more so because of the dogged determination of my mother who almost engaged in fisticuffs with a woman at K&K Toys over the last Cabbage Patch doll one Christmas.
In my teens and early twenties, my wishes were squarely focused on people. Boys to be precise. Sure, I’d occasionally throw a bone to the feminist movement and wish for admission to college or employment at a high powered law firm. But mostly it was boys.
Since I turned 30, I have had one wish and one wish only. I know, I know. It is an outright violation of the unspoken wish code to reveal what you wished for, but you won’t tell, right? My wish – on every star, every candle, every green M&M – has been the same: I wish for a long and happy and healthy life together with my family.
Since July, I haven’t really made any wishes. Perhaps my child-like view of wishes died the same night my dad did. Perhaps it’s because my head is swimming with so many wishes I couldn’t possibly chose just one: I wish I had stuck my head in his room to check on him after I put the boys to bed that night. I wish my parents had 20 more years of reading the newspaper in bed together and sitting out by the river at night. I wish he had written his novel. I wish I had videotaped all those nights he and his college roommates regaled us with their stories and laughed until their faces turned purple. I wish we’d had the chance to go back to Italy again and sit on our rooftop terrazza listening to the sounds of Rome at night. I wish I remembered that card trick he taught the boys in June. I wish more than anything they would have my dad around to challenge their minds and protect their hearts as they grow up. To teach them to debate and tell jokes. To dance with them around the kitchen and sing Motown songs off-key. To show them that being a great man isn’t about how you wield your power – whether physically, emotionally, or intellectually – but about how freely and completely you can love.
Or maybe it’s because I am reminded of how little I actually have to wish for.
Last year, when we bought our dream house, all I could see were wishes that couldn’t be fulfilled. The 80’s draperies and kitchen cabinets, the small bathrooms, the peeling paint, the old windows. The beauty of what we had was being drowned out by all the wishes in my head. But one day I woke up and didn’t see any of that. I didn’t see everything that was wrong. Instead, I saw our life. Big and messy and loud and fun.
20 years from now, we won’t remember the wishes. None of us will remember the chipped paint or the small bathrooms or any of the other joys that come with owning an old house. We’ll remember the days we sat out on the dock, watching the herons and egrets and stingrays. We’ll remember the nights we spent reading books in bed. We’ll remember dance parties and family dinners and playing football in the backyard.
We’ll remember a long and healthy and happy life together, perfect in its imperfection. And you can’t wish for more than that.
But if anyone is looking for a Christmas present, I would really like some new curtains…