She rubbed her back right heel on her left toe, crossed her left arthritic index finger over her third finger, took in a deep breath and chanted,
“Now may be the time, time is what we find, find the time that’s right for me. And let me see!”
Then for good measure she wished, take me back to Steve and the girls.
A roar in her ears prepared her for the worst – she was having a stroke and would collapse right here in front of all her family, gathered for her 80th March birthday. But the sound turned softer, less urgent, and she felt a light breeze tickle her chin as chimes crooned gently with the sweet summer air. Dolly opened her eyes and gasped.
She was sitting in the middle of the back yard, the one from their salad days when Steve was still working the night shift. The green grass was prickly against her bare legs, and she smiled down at her man, who was bent over a picnic basket with glee on his face. Her Steve. He was only 31, but the bald spot that would grow to an embarrassing patch when he was 20 years older was already showing off some pink scalp .
Dolly giggled, her voice strong and steady, and Steve’s two bright blue eyes looked up happily. Oh, was he a sight for sore eyes. Ruddy red cheeks belied the kidney disease he’d deal with in his 60s, instead now offering health and youth and love.
“Your fried chicken! And even better, your potato salad!” he exclaimed as he brought the food out, followed by screeches of delight by their little peach, 1½-year-old Priscilla. She looked just like her daddy, except with longer eyelashes.
Dolly felt a kick in her stomach and looked down. So that’s where Jenny was. Still inside, a couple of months from entering this world. Or that world, Dolly corrected.
Which world was she in, she wondered, as the July sun warmed her back on this March birthday evening.
The fortune teller she visited a few days ago – a fun birthday gift from funky granddaughter Rose – insisted that if Dolly followed her instructions to the T, including the crossed feet and fingers and the special chant, her wish could come true.
Dolly stretched and met Steve’s face over the blue blanket. He dropped the chicken and laid a protective hand over her pregnant body. Their lips met, and Dolly savored the warm wet kiss, sucking in his breath as she tasted Steve’s love. Her eyes closed.
“Mom! Mom, where are you? Earth to Mars. Earth to Mars.”
Dolly opened her eyes. Her 56-year-old daughter stared at her with a small smile on her face, but also some concern. “You blew out your candles, but then you wouldn’t open your eyes,” Priscilla scolded with a laugh.
“What did you wish for, Grandma?” Rose asked as she quickly pulled out the melting candles, licking off the frosting with a swipe of her tongue on each one. “You sure were concentrating hard before you blew. What’dya ask for, a ’61 Corvette?”
Rose’s Aunt Jenny laughed and said, “No, that’s what your granddad used to wish for on his birthdays. That and fried chicken.”
Dolly didn’t answer Rose’s question. She just closed her eyes and pleaded, “Could I blow out some more candles before we eat the cake. Please?”