Thursday, April 30, 2015

Star Light, Star Bright: How Our Wishes Change Over The Years

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might, 
Have the wish I wish tonight. 

In one of my earliest memories, I'm strapped in the backseat of my parents' car, driving home from a relative's house at dusk, when my mom, who must have sneaked a peak at the sky, and recites those lines.

In another, I remember riding through the grocery store in the fall, being pushed in a cart up and down the aisles. Finally we reached the checkout, and as we waited for our turn, my mom's eyes fell on the stacks of pumpkins up against the wall and she instinctively starts in with:

Peter Peter, Pumpkin Eater
Had a wife but could not keep her; 
So he put her in a shell,
And there he kept her very well. 

Decades later, as I awkwardly try to figure out the best way to hold my own child in my new mom arms, my mom picks up a teddy bear from the stack of toys in the nursery and hums as bounces him expertly on her knee.

Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear, 
Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair. 
Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't so fuzzy, was he? 

My mom must have taken a class on nursery rhymes at some point, because she knew them all. Sure, most moms pick up a number of them at some point, but she knew them ALL. And given that English is not even her first language, I think that's pretty darn impressive. As nonsensical as those rhymes are (why exactly are we celebrating the collapse of London Bridge, or the cradle falling down?), they have always been music to my linguistically-oriented ears. I loved them all, but none more than the first:

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight. 
I wish I may, I wish I might, 
Have the wish I wish tonight. 

They are words a sad, lonely little girl once said as she looked out her bedroom window at night and the sky seemed too frustratingly small. She wished to break free.

They are words that comforted a young adult trying so hard to be independent, distancing herself from everything and everyone familiar, when the sky seemed far too big. She wished for a sign that she was doing the right thing.

They are the words passed down from one generation to another, and now to yet another. When night falls and the first star appears, I hold that little girl's hand and wonder what she wishes for as I fervently wish wishes on her behalf: for courage, for strength, for her to know she is loved more than all the stars in the sky, that because she is loved by the maker of the stars, she shines more brightly than all of their light.

And they are the words that now bring tears to my eyes when I realize that I didn't need to wish for anything, because everything I needed was right in front of me the whole time.

It's an inevitable part of life that the stars in the sky will fade, and yet, when we feel the stars in our lives begin to slip away, the ones that have always burned so brightly and lit our path, it can feel like the whole sky is falling.

I look back on all the things I wished for over the years: for a horse, a baby sister, for that one boy to call, for that dream job to come through, for baby to sleep just one more hour. I think about the things that I'd work myself into a worried frenzy over, the wishes I'd wish over and over again, repeated like a mantra in my mind. It all seems so unimportant.

Now, I just wish for the stars to keep shining.

When you go outside at night and gaze up at the sky, it seems eternal and unchanging. But science tells us that's just not true- it's the limits of what we see with our human eyes.

We live on a much shorter time scale than the stars. But they too, are born, they live for an amount of time, and they die. Some fade quietly away, some explode, but in the end, like us, they are mortal.

When we're young, we never think the stars above us will ever fade- the ones that shine down on us as we lay in our cribs, the ones that illuminate the way as we take our first steps, and later as we walk down the aisle into the next chapter of our lives. But those stars, too, have their limits.

We can't get our wishes back, so use them wisely. Wish for wisdom to reach out and touch the brightest stars while they are still with you. Wish for eyes that see the unique light each star brings to your life. Wish for that light to shine on in your life, even after the star fades away.

Star light, star bright...that's the wish I wish tonight.

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