(Author’s note: The Wish was published in its longer form in the 2010-2011 Averett Journal. The author shares this condensation with Evince readers in celebration of Mother’s Day.)

Have you ever noticed that impossible things seem more possible at night? I was driving home from a writers group meeting the night it happened. An unexpected wish rose through me: I wanted to see Stella, my grandmother, just one more time. Where did that come from? But then I thought about my grandmother.

Stella was a Polish immigrant. An accomplished seamstress, she was a willful teenager of independent mind. Determined to emigrate to America, she saved her money and badgered her parents until, worn out, they agreed to let her go. At age 16, she traveled across the Atlantic alone to live with relatives. Her parents never saw her again. She met a man on the boat. Eventually, she married him and lived a life with more than its share of tragedies. But the grandmother I had known was full of joy.

I adored her. Gramma Stella was the star of my early years. Giving and receiving unconditional love was a wonderful gift for a child growing up in a parental war zone. We spent summers together, Stella and I. Safe, secure summers alone on the farm, full of energy, work, dance, and laughter. I didn’t know we were poor. Perhaps we were so happy together because, with her, I could be a happy child living an uncomplicated life, and with me, she could recapture a childhood cut short. Gramma Stella had a few rings, remnants of the old country, but she never wore them in her hard, everyday life. Sometimes she would let me look and touch before hiding them away.

The highway rolled along under my wheels, matching the pace of the memories unrolling in my mind. But in the field on the right, a flash of white startled me. A deer, drenched in moonlight, leapt into the road ahead. It stopped and faced me, its eyes wide, opaque, as if it had not come from this world. As I pumped the brakes, the deer grew larger, frighteningly fast. I screamed and must have hit the horn. The deer came out of its trance. I watched it flash away into the trees. Pull over, I thought, shaking. My heart was pounding. Get out of the car. Lean over. Breathe. Drawing a slow breath, I straightened. My eyes swept over the moonlit fields. My heartbeat slowed. And out of the corner of my eye, I saw something more. It was another flash of white in the field in front of me. A distant figure was coming closer … and it was dancing.

The radiance of the moon illuminated the whirling figure, its frayed flannel shirt open, revealing the old-fashioned blouse beneath. The patched skirt flared outward. Inside the clothes, the angular body of a woman moved in a pattern of grace. Her head tilted back, her gold earrings glinted as they spun outward above the scarf clasped around her neck. Wisps of white hair escaped its clips. A ring on her finger caught the moonlight. Her eyes were closed, her lips parted in a slight smile and moving to a melody only she could hear. That looks like my grandmother. I felt an odd, flat lack of surprise. She stopped whirling. Her eyes opened and met mine.

I can’t explain it. Maybe there is a frame of mind that transcends the physical plane, that lets us get a fleeting glimpse of those long dead through eyes made keener by the power of love and night. I took a step toward her. She shook her head, her body language hinting at a gulf between us, a gossamer visual bridge that couldn’t stand up to anything more.

Her eyes softening, she held a finger to her lips. One hand gripped the other. Staring at me, she touched her lips to blow me a kiss with an odd, quick, furtive flip of her wrists. She straightened, looked me over and nodded, then cocked her head in an attitude of listening. Tears glinted in her eyes. Her patched skirts ruffled as if in a breeze. Her head tipped back, her eyes closed, one arm arched over her head. Her other hand stretched out, its naked fingers graceful, pinching her skirts. She began to twirl, slowly at first, then faster and faster away from me until the flash of her white face faded out of sight.

I was alone on the side of the road in the moonlight. But not completely alone, for I’d gotten my wish, and more. “Impossible,” you say? I looked down at the amethyst ring she’d thrown across that unnatural chasm, that ring from long ago that I’d caught without thinking, sliding it onto my finger with my eyes still riveted on her. I smiled as I rubbed my thumb over the stone. Proof enough for me.

 

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