when i was a kid, i would make wishes every chance i got. shooting stars, blowing out my birthday candles, 11:11, wishing wells and penny fountains. at every opportunity i would squinch my eyes shut, hold my breath, and make a wish. “i wish for a pony! i want to make first chair. i want to be in the disney young musician’s symphony orchestra.”
as i got older, somebody told me that if the clasp of your necklace works its way down to the pendant, you make a wish as you spin it back to its rightful place at the back of your neck. now in middle school and generally always wearing some borderline abysmal piece of jewelry or another, purchased at claire’s along with four or five bonne bell chapsticks, this necklace wishing was a regular occurrence.
“let me do well at this audition. i wish to get the lead in this year’s musical. please let me break 1400 on my SATs.”
as i got older, i watched friends battle terrible demons, teammates die tragically, people’s worlds get turned upside down with no rhyme or reason. my wishes became desperate pleas for the safety of those i loved. “i wish that the whole family gets to be together for one more holiday. let grandma’s cancer go away. i want mom and dad to live to be great-grandparents.”
the night before my mom’s funeral, my dad gave me her engagement ring. she was a nurse and never wore it because it was a nuisance; she kept it in a teacup above the kitchen sink. when our house was robbed this past fall, her ring was the one piece of jewelry that survived – nobody looks in a teacup. i wore the ring on a chain around my neck for the funeral; four days later i was back in lexington, and the first thing i did was head to the jeweler.
i wear my mother’s engagement stone in a simple pendant around my neck. i never take it off – when i run i tuck it into the back of my sports bra, because otherwise it tangles in my earbud wires and eventually starts to choke me. but even then, i won’t take it off.
the first time i found the clasp down by the pendant, i did what i’ve done so many other times: took the pendant in one hand, clasp in the other, and quickly spun the clasp around to the back of my neck. at the same time, i held my breath and started to make a wish.
“please bring my mom back.”
no sooner did the words cross my mind than i wanted to erase them, take them back. not because they were untrue…but because i knew that this wish, more than the pony or the lead in the school musical or those SAT scores, would never happen. no matter how many times i wished on shooting stars and birthday candles and every 11:11 every twelve hours for the rest of my life, my mom was never coming back.
the realization hit me like a brick wall and i stood there in my kitchen, suspended, left hand at the back of my neck holding the clasp, right hand still clutching the pendant. the pendant made from her engagement stone. the one dad gave to me the night before we said goodbye to her for the last time.
my mom was never coming back.
maybe i’ll still make a wish when i blow my birthday candle out next month, still toss a penny into a fountain. but in that moment i knew that i would never wish on a necklace clasp again.