Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leaving the future in her hands

As soon as I saw her with the paper contraption my breath caught in my chest.

Where did she get that, I wondered wordlessly when I saw the most feared thing in the history of pre-adolescent feared things — A paper “fortune teller” — twirling around in her fingers.

And here my daughter was wielding it with the skill of an expert.

"Pick a color," Ittybit said to her friend, who promptly selected pink and sat patiently as my daughter opened and closed her fingers, silently spelling P, I, N, K.

"Now choose a number."


Surprised, I looked over Ittybit’s shoulder as she started the arduous task of counting to 17, reciting the numbers faster than she could open and close the flower-like origami game.

Whoever made this particular device, which was now fuzzy and frail from use, had decided against the predictable one to eight sequence, opting instead for double digit numbers on every flap. Extended play or drawn out torture, depending on how you see these things.

"Pick another number," she continues.

Her friend obliges … this time. I can tell she has had enough of the suspense. The next time a number choice is offered she declines. "I don’t want to pick another number" a great deal more sweetly than I would have if I were in her place.

A strange de ja vu washes over me as I watch my daughter lift the flap. My whole body tenses.

Nothing has been written inside.

"Oh, It says here you have no future," she chirps gaily.

THAT was what I was afraid of.

How many times in my primary school years had someone opened one of those hateful things and told me I smelled? Or that I will be married to a garbage man, have 300 children and live under a bridge? Too many to count.

It all came rushing back.

“WHAT?! That’s a terrible thing to tell someone," I rage at my daughter as I snatch the thing from her hands. "Where did you get this?"

She is silent. Confused, probably.

She didn’t see anything wrong with the reading. She didn’t mean to hurt her friend. She was just stating the obvious.

The paper was blank. Blank meant nothing. There’s nothing wrong with nothing. It’s just … nothing.

But to me, nothing can be everything. It is why, for no logical reason, I allow an intricate series of superstitions to guide me when fate disables control … it is the ladder I walk around, the salt I toss over my shoulder, the wish I don’t say aloud and the fears I voice over and over.

Her friend’s father, who has been a good sport about it all, offers us both a way out. "You could say, ‘Your future is what you make of it’. … Or you could say, ‘Your future is wide open’."

Ittybit, as a matter of course, apologizes and hugs her friend ‘goodbye.’ She disappears for a while after we close the door.

We’re not done talking about the incident, though. As we start the journey upstairs, into her room and toward the Land of Nodd, I remind her about how easily disappointment comes and how hard it can be to smooth hurt feelings.

Later, after she is tucked in and sleeping peacefully, I realize this is just the beginning of all the secrets that will be in our future. No doubt we will be blindsided by what’s underneath our flaps, be they hurtful things or empty spaces.

With this in mind, I go searching for the paper device with half a mind to rip it to shreds. I find it in the center of the dinning room table. But instead of crumpling the thing, I am drawn to lift a flap. And then another … to find underneath each one she’s colored in crayon hearts.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Ahh... the paper fortune teller. I'm not sure I could remember how to make one of those now. I might have to ask my niece. :-)