(Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?)
Thirteen is a wonderful, terrible age. Still caught somewhere between childhood and womanhood, the thirteen-year-old girl has hopes and wishes and dreams that she doesn’t truly understand. Things are happening in and to her body that are both exciting and confusing. Emotions she doesn’t understand can overwhelm her with sadness or delight. She’s at odds with herself, with her family, with everything as it is; at the same time, she needs desperately to have the comfort of her family and the safety of home while she dreams about all the things on the outside of that comfort zone.
So, as Gina stood at the fountain that shimmered with wish coins, she gripped her own while she thought of all the things she could wish for. Her dreams tended to reach far into the future. She saw herself as a prolific writer of great historical novels. She pictured a mansion filled with beautiful furnshings and echoing with the laughter of children. She heard the resonant voice of the world’s most incredbly handsome man as he called for her when he came in from his business day.
Leaning over the edge of the fountain, she saw herself. Long hair, straight and mud-brown. Bad skin. Big brown eyes, her best feature, didn’t make up for her lop-sided ears and the gap between her two front teeth.
“No,” she thought. “I’ll never be a famous anything. I’m too plain, too poor, and too shy to ever accomplish all that. I’ll be lucky to find an ordinary guy who doesn’t mind how short and dumpy I am, and who likes mud-brown hair. What can I wish for that might actually come true?”
Gina didn’t believe in fairy tale magic. There would be no Prince Charming in her future, she was sure. She wasn’t about to waste wishes on things that were impossible. Lost in thought, she didn’t notice the little old woman who approached the fountain and stood next to her until she felt a hand on her shoulder. Glancing up, she smiled a bit at the kindness she saw in the woman’s eyes.
“Did you ever make a wish here?” she asked.
“Oh, my yes. When I was just about your age.”
“Really? Did your wish come true? Will you tell me about it?”
“Yes, my wish came true. It was simple. I wished that I would find someone to share my life with, someone who would always be glad he had met me. That’s all I wished, but I got a lot more than I wished for.”
“What? What else did you get?”
“Why, my dear, if I tell you that, you’ll waste your wishes on things that might not be best for you. The key is to wish for someone you can love, someone whose life will be better because of you. Your life won’t be without sorrow and loss, but you will never regret the life you shared with a person who believes you made his life better than he ever dreamed.”
The woman turned and walked away, and Gina still sat on the edge of the fountain, dreaming. Finally, she stood and tossed her coins, one by one, into the clear water.
“I wish,” she whispered, “That someone else’s life will be better because of me.”