My six year old daughter heard somewhere that the Chinese have an ancient tradition of placing an orange in a tree as a way of making a wish. If the orange stays in the tree overnight, the wish will be granted. If the orange falls out from the tree, the wish will not come to pass.
I haven’t yet taken the time to research this to figure out what she’s talking about. I don’t want to know. I think the idea is perfectly beautiful and, of course, perfectly doomed to fail.
She has a stuffed dog she calls Mudge. My daughter, my wife, Mudge and I live in a house with four real, honest-to-gosh dogs. We feed them, groom them, pet them and generally love them. You probably know where this is going.
My daughter decided that she wanted Mudge to be a real dog so that Mudge could have real dog experiences. She wanted Mudge to eat when fed, to wag when groomed, and to bask in the pleasantness that comes with being generally loved.
Her plan was simple. She put an orange in a tree. This morning as we left for school, she locked Mudge in her room. “If Mudge becomes a real dog while we are gone, I don’t want him getting lost or getting scared by the other dogs.” Very practical. She is a planner like her mother.
After school, she was in a rush to get home and check on the orange. I explained that she might want to dial back her expectations a little bit and that I had never known or heard of a stuffed animal coming to life for any reason but particularly not from placing an orange in a tree.
“We’ll have to see,” she told me, which was not really fair. That’s usually my line.
When we pulled into the driveway, I could already see the outcome of her hopes. The orange had fallen out of the tree.
“Oh man,” she said, genuinely disappointed. There was such sweetness in that voice and a little bit of disbelief. “I thought it would work. Let’s go inside.”
We got inside, greeted by four enthusiastically happy dogs. “Come on. Let’s check,” she said. “Just to be sure.”
She strode down the hall, opened her bedroom door a bit and peered inside. “Mudge?”
She listened for an answer. Hearing none, she opened the door completely and walked to her bed where Mudge lay exactly as she had left him.
She shrugged. She nodded. “We’ll try again in the Spring,” she told me.
“Sure.” I nodded.
My daughter will have her heart broken a hundred thousand times. The world can be mean and petty. Sometimes there isn’t enough magic in it. I know how she feels.
And yet, there is something inside of us, all three of us, that does not die with the disappointment. We will try again in the spring. These are the words of someone who is relentlessly optimistic. My daughter, myself, my family. It is the way we choose to live our life.
Sometimes you hope for things that are never going to happen.
Sometimes you make plans for the impossible.
Sometimes you put an orange up in a tree because someone told you that the Chinese did the exact same thing thousands of years ago. Maybe they. Maybe they didn’t. It doesn’t really matter. If it doesn’t work, we can try again next spring.