gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews

If I had three wishes

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Yesterday, I was feeling sick, and when I am sick, I want my mommy.

When I told my six year old this, he was very sympathetic.

“Mommy,” he said, “if you had three wishes, you would want your mommy to be alive, and your daddy to be alive, and also Claudie.” Claudie is our recently deceased dachshund.

I didn’t have to think about it.

“No,” I said. “I’d want you to have a happy life, and yours sister to have a happy life, and maybe for the third one I’d try for world peace or something.”

The six year old was unimpressed with my obvious propensity for wish-wasting, but it got me thinking.

First, it got me thinking about how I think even imaginary wish genies have fairly strict rules. I imagined one genie that allowed only wishes for individuals – so it would grant my first two, but world peace would be a no-no. Then I created a slightly more powerful second genie, who would allow wishes for the world, but not sneakily two wished wishes. So you wouldn’t be allowed to wish for “peace and happiness for everybody” – that would be two.

Both of my imaginary genies were quite punitive. You have to be careful. For example, I considered wishing for happiness for my two children, and riches for me (on the basis that I could share them with my children, ensuring that both children are happy AND rich). I realised that having not wished for my own happiness I might be made very unhappy – so unhappy that I don’t share the wealth with my husband and children – rendering the whole wish pointless.

As you can imagine, I then spent a bit of time worrying about what it says about me that even in an optimistic, whimsical fantasy I had to make these very strict rules. I decided it was a writer “world building” thing rather than a deep seated neurosis. (I was probably wrong. I don’t write fantasy. I’ve never world-built.)

Finally, I set about wishing.

From the first genie – the one who would only service individuals – I wished for happiness for my children and my husband. I hoped all that happiness would rub off on me, and I’d get karma points for not being selfish.

From the second genie – the one who could look after the world – I asked for all people, always, to be tolerant of difference; for all people, always, to have lives that they would reflect on as happy, and I wished for all people, always, to have enough materially that they would not know desperate need.

See what I did there – I tried not to jinx it. Keep the wish humble enough that they don’t backfire. Important. But I did worry a bit whether I’d be allowed to sneak in that “always”. I have a feeling it might be against the rules. It might have kept me up, the worrying – until I remembered the whole thing was a fantasy anyway.

“Well,” said my son. “Those might be YOUR wishes. But for my wishes I’m making your mom and your dad and the dog alive.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that resurrection is against the entirely made up rules of my entirely made up genie.

“Thank you,” I said, and wished him happiness with all my heart.

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