Mom, can I have a coin?
Please, Mom, I need a coin. Please please! I want to throw it in the wishing well.
And what are you going to wish for?
I can’t tell first or it won’t come true.
I find a penny in the bottom of my wristlet and hand it to her. The rest of the customers in line try not to giggle or stare, knowing how serious this wishing well business is for the five-year-old girl with messy hair and mismatched clothes.
She peers over the railing, into the small decorative pool of water, and pauses. Then she closes her eyes and lets the coin fall in the water. The little penny ripples the water as it breaks the surface, and falls to the bottom, joining hundreds of other coins. She waits for a moment, almost expecting something to happen.
I beckon for her to come back to the line. She comes running.
So, what did you wish for?
She smiles shyly and whispers, I wished to become a mermaid!
A mermaid! I said, tickling her. I sure hope you don’t turn into a mermaid! You wouldn’t be able to live with us, you would have to go live in the ocean! We’d miss you!
I gave her a squeeze, but she squirmed away quickly. Her face was ashen, her eyes huge and scared.
Mom! I need another coin! Quick Mom! A bigger one!
This was not the time to ask why. I handed her a nickle, and she ran back to the wishing well. This time she closed her eyes tight and threw the nickle into the pool. It splashed into the water.
She looked down at her feet and said, Whew! That was a close one!
What did you wish for? I asked when she returned.
She says sheepishly, I wished for my whole entire life back.
I was the only one watching that could suppress my laughter. I gave her a hug and told her that I would have missed her if she had turned into a mermaid.
She pulled away, and said, Next time, Mom, I’m just going to wish for black hair like yours.
This post is reprinted with permission from Ana-White.com