Reaching for the Stars

By Rose Ann Sinay

The summer of my junior year in high school threatened to be hot and quiet and lonely. Most of my friends had gone away on vacation leaving me and my neighbor, Diane, dependant on each other for some semblance of a social life. We didn’t have transportation, or a place to go, for that matter. Fortunately, we found part-time babysitting jobs that would help fill the three months until the new school year started. It was a fortunate fluke when we came into possession of a Magic 8-Ball that must have fallen out of a truck on the way to the dump. It was cracked on one side, but it didn’t affect its “yes,” “no” or “maybe” readout. With the help of our plastic “crystal” ball, a stack of magazines, scissors, a scrap book and lots of wishes, we created a format for our hopes and dreams.

At first we asked silly questions: “Will Doug invite me to the prom? Should I wear a blue dress?” I shook the ball. “Maybe” floated to the top of the window. I took that as a yes on both counts. If we saw something in a magazine that we wanted in our adult lives, we cut it out and pasted it on the thick manila paper, after consulting with our personal clairvoyant.

Diane’s pages were covered with cats and dogs. The magic ball said “yes” to poodles and tabby cats. She pasted a picture of a rambling farmhouse, complete with livestock . . . and a farmer.

My two-story dream house with black shutters and a white picket fence covered two full pages in my book. I glued four tow-headed children in the windows. My future husband would be tall, dark and handsome and wear a suit to work every day.

We were assured by our one word psychic that we would go to college together, get jobs at the same company and live next door to each other. As teenagers it was as simple as that; we knew it to be true.

As the summer came to a close, our preoccupation with forecasting our futures disappeared. The ball was tossed in a box and forgotten. The thick, ruffle-edged scrap book stayed on my bureau as a reminder of things to come.

Diane and I went back to school with a new resolve. The world was at our fingertips. Doug did invite me to his prom, and I wore blue.

After high school, our carefully plotted blueprints began to fall apart. My friend went west to college. She wanted to work with animals. I went local. I wanted to write books.

I met a guy. He was the one. He wasn’t tall or dark, but he was handsome. Turns out he didn’t wear a suit, but he did sport a white lab coat.

Diane met her future husband in college. He was deathly allergic to cats and dogs. She changed her major.

Over the years, my friend and I exchanged short, informative letters to update each other on our ever evolving lives. Our jobs weren’t the professions that we had dreamed about. Diane was not a veterinarian, and I had not written a book to rival Stephen King or Jeffery Archer.

The 8-ball had been wrong.

The babies began to arrive. Diane was the first to announce she was pregnant.

“Debbie, if it’s a girl, and Daniel, if it’s a boy, right?” She must have asked the Magic 8-Ball ten times before it had agreed to her favorite names.

“Heavens no.” She laughed recalling our life planning strategy. “If you remember, ‘It’ said I was going to have one girl. Well, I’m having twins.” Both babies were boys. Neither was named Daniel.

There was a little piece of me that was disappointed in her news. Not that she was having twins. I was happy for her. But I realized things were not going according to plan. I would not, most likely, have the four blonde babies that I’d wished for in my private journal buried in the attic. Having a family had not been as easy as clipping photos out of a magazine. Four years of trying and four years of disappointments had taken its toll.

“Do you have that big dream house with the white picket fence?” Diane asked.

It was my turn to laugh. “Not yet, but there’s always hope.” After a moment I said, “You know we live, laugh and dream in this house, so yes, I guess I do. Only it’s painted blue. One day we will fill it with children.”

When I finally got pregnant, my husband and I were ecstatic. Our son was born with a head full of red hair. Our daughter arrived four years later with beautiful brown curls. I couldn’t imagine having wanted anything other than my colorful duo.

Our lives did not follow the whim of a child’s toy. The Magic 8-Ball was a gift that opened our eyes to the myriad of possibilities. It served as a lesson to two teens that life is not “yes,” “no” or “maybe.” It allowed us to recognize and appreciate the blessings achieved through hard work, love and faith. As Iris Gaines said to Roy Hobbs in the book, The Natural, “We have two lives . . . the life we learn with and the life we live after that.” (Bernard Malamud, p.152)

I still have the scrap book packed away with my dried wedding bouquet, photographs and trinkets. That hot, boring summer had revealed the stars to me and my friend; the years have given us the secrets to reach them.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer typing away in sunny North Carolina. Her articles/stories have been published in The Carolinas Today, The Oddville Press and The Brunswick Beacon.

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6 Responses to “Reaching for the Stars”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    Wow! What a great narrative, infused with humor and endowed with wisdom. And yes, I remember that 8 Ball. One of my childhood pals “accidentally” dropped it after it gave her the wrong reply! LOL

  2. Joan Leotta says:

    This is one of my favorite of your columns,Rose–funny and poignant!

  3. Diane says:

    You just keep us all waiting for your next story…because you have a way of taking us back and giving us the chance to relive a thought, a good time, a sad time….. thank you and yes I have many good memories of the “8 Ball”. Thank you!

  4. Tammy Rohlf says:

    Your story brought back so many happy memories. How we anxiously waited for the predictions to our questions and remembering how we would ask the question a different way to see if the 8 ball would give us the answers we wanted. Thanks for the childhood memories!

  5. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story certainly took me back to those young girl dreams,. Very enjoyable read.

  6. I so enjoyed this story. I remember that 8 ball. What fond memories you bring up for me.

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