My beloved is endearingly superstitious, a trait she inherited directly from her mother. Could be a theater thing. She spills some salt, she has to toss some over her left shoulder. We’re walking side-by-side and find we’re split up to pass by a pole or some such, and she’s compelled to say, “Bread and butter.” I’m supposed to say it too, otherwise: something bad will come between us. I humored her for the first few weeks of our relationship, but soon branched off into reciting my own version of paired items. “Marx and Lenin.” “Thesis and antithesis.” “Seals and Crofts.” She says it’s okay, it counts.
One of my favorite of her superstitions is a digital-era tic: whenever a clock reads 11:11, you have to make a wish. Each time, it’s prefaced with the saying, “Eleven eleven, make a wish.” Insiders can shorten it simply to, “Eleven eleven.” You know what you’re supposed to do next.
So when I sat down to work at the computer this morning, and saw its clock read 11:11, I was in a quandary. What to wish for first? I’ve wished for so many things that didn’t come true. And I suppose, I have to admit, many that did come true. But it’s human nature to overlook those.
A few years back, when my 11:11 wishes had to do with the fight for my nephew’s life, they were fierce. Neither my beloved nor I ever had to wonder what we were going to wish for when the clock struck 11:11. We looked at each other gravely and said nothing. Before our daughter’s birth, it was a kind of split wish: Erik’s miracle cancer cure, and a healthy birth. Then after our daughter was safely delivered, it was back to Erik’s miracle cure.
After his death six months later, I wished for the one-day mended hearts of his mother, brother, and father. And for our own.
Since then, I’ve wished a lot less.
But since then, we’ve also been blessed. The conception and healthy birth of a second child. The blossoming of those two children in ways that amaze me daily. And don’t think Erik doesn’t have a heavy hand in that amazement.
Three and a half years later, my sister and her family are growing accustomed to facing each new day with a family that appears to be a trio (though they know it’s a quartet). No one but them will know how heavy their hearts are, or how hard it is to wake up to that reality. But wake up they do, each day. And that is a wish come true for me.
This morning, when the clock struck 11:11, my first thought was a split wish, one shared by hundreds of thousands, more like millions of people like me: an Obama win, and the defeat of Proposition 8.
One of the oddest things to explain to other people is how painful all this wishing and hoping is. When you’ve never, ever felt advocated for, at a state-wide level, and then you are (with the California supreme court decision about gay marriage), and then the same old familiar hate script kicks in – special rights! the decline of the family! all that crap – the pain has a unique acuteness. Because the protective covering was coming off, in the wake of the court’s ruling. The thick skin was becoming tenderized. Exposed now, in a new way, to these hateful elements from which it had been so long protected. Y’all who’ve never had to toughen your skin like this might not be able to imagine what this feels like. Simplest thing I can say is, it feels like a vicious a double-cross, and it makes a strong case for cynicism.
By the same token, the fight against this hate makes an equally strong case for hope. We have always known that we LGBT people are a small minority of the population. It is our friends, family, and allies who make up a majority of it. So you see how this proposition is really a referendum on the strength of our love for one another. Not LGBT people’s love for one another. Our straight allies’ love of us. And of justice.
Is it wise to hope and pray and wish so? Wise, I don’t know. But fierce hoping is the precursor to fierce trying, and heaven knows if we do not try, the just world at the other end of those wishes would most certainly not come to pass.
So, people. It’s eleven eleven. Make a wish.