“Be careful what you wish for” has been rolling around in my head forever. Because the way people would say it sounded as if it were a negative thing. Like a warning. I never took it that way. I thought wishing was a great form of trusting something bigger, something almost mystical.
Growing up in the ’50s, living in a suburban town on a street where the houses were smallish and close to each other, I had a very small view of what life could be like. Men had jobs and stayed until they got the golden handshake. People watched TV for entertainment. Neighbors knew each other. Women were stay-at-home moms (an expression that was far in the future). A few worked out of the home. My mother was one of them. There was no judgment about that.
What there was judgment about was Emilia. Emilia lived diagonally across the street from us, and she lived alone. Right away that was odd. She looked different from the other ladies. For one thing, she never wore dresses. She wore brown, lace-up, heavy leather shoes with thick soles, and knitted gray wool socks. She had blonde hair, real blonde hair. Everyone on our street had dark hair, unless they bleached it, and then you could see their dark roots, more fodder for conversation.
But Emilia’s hair was natural.
Her legs had muscles. I had never seen a woman with muscles (maybe I wasn’t looking, but …). Emilia was probably 45, though I had no idea how old people were. I was 12.
And completely fascinated by her.
Everything in my world was the same. The houses were all white with green or black shutters. There were two kids, two cars (if they were rich, but mostly one, since most of the women didn’t drive).
And on summer nights, you could smell burgers on the grill and homemade criss-cross peanut butter cookies from the open kitchen windows. No one had air conditioning.
The women gossiped about how they didn’t know where that woman went every morning when she left the house at 6:30 am, wearing that outlandish outfit, and didn’t come home till close to sundown. The outlandish outfit consisted of shorts (even in winter) and hand-knitted heavy sweaters (even in summer).
No one talked to her. No one invited her in for tea. No one said anything nice about her, which, of course, made me even more interested in her.
I remember working up the nerve to approach her one day as she was shoveling her own walk, another thing the women never did. I walked over and said Hi.
That began our very occasional and very sweet friendship.
I found out the answer to the big secret about her outings. She told me that she missed Switzerland, and going hiking each day made her feel closer to home. HIKING! What in the world was hiking? Walking up a mountain on purpose?
I loved her ruddy cheeks and her wild hair, and her plaid flannel shirts.
I hadn’t thought about Emilia in decades, but during COVID, like so many of us, I started taking daily walks. And it has become a powerful, positive addiction. I hardly miss a day.
It’s very difficult for me, even though it’s only a mile. However, when I finish, I’m so proud of myself. And one of the first things I do when I get back to the car is to look in the mirror and smile at my rosy (translation: ruddy) cheeks.
There is a fork on the path that is divided into two separate trails with two little signs. And even though I’ve probably read them a thousand times, I don’t think I ever really paid that much attention. But yesterday it was as if they were flashing and in 3D.
One sign says biking, and the other one says … yup … hiking! Hiking! Rosy cheeks! Ruddy cheeks. Emilia. OMG! Emilia. Me. I’m hiking.
She must have planted that seed in my young soul, and if it’s true (and I think it is) that your subconscious and your imagination are always working, and that the universe is always listening, her influence must have been marinating all these years, and just now miraculously manifested.
So my advice? Don’t be careful what you wish for. Trust that there is indeed something bigger, and make sure you have yourself a wish.