Homebound Letter 7 – March 30, 2020
Dear Stuck-at-Home Student:
I’ve been thinking a lot about wishes.
Every afternoon my family and I take one long walk through our neighborhood for exercise. My almost-two-year-old son is in the stroller, usually eating blueberries. My almost-six-year-old daughter is on the buddy board that comes off the back of the stroller, visually searching for all the scavenger hunt items my wife has generated with her (a red door, the number 12, a singing bird, etc). My wife is walking beside me, talking about her text conversations with friends and family back in New York. And I’m pushing the stroller.
We pass a lot of dandelions on these walks. And my daughter always points at them, eager to make a wish. I don’t know what we’re supposed to touch and not touch these days, so I’m always hesitant to have her reach down and grab one. To make a wish the way she made so many wishes before everything changed.
Anyway, this has made me think about my own wishes. And how they’ve changed over the past few weeks. What about your wishes. Have they changed, too?
Before I go any further . . . a quick intro for those who are new to these letters. My name is Matt de la Peña, and I write books. Usually I’m out on the road, visiting schools. Or I’m working on a new book. But right now I’m staying at home with my family. You probably are, too. Since we’re all in the same boat, I’ve decided to write you letters over the next couple weeks. They’re about things I’ve been thinking about lately. And trying to write about. You can write me back if you want, with a question or a comment. I’ve been getting a lot of letters, so I might not be able to respond personally, but I promise to read every single one of them. And I’ll share some of your responses in future letters (so be sure to include your name, age, and what city you live in).
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org (If you’ve missed any of the previous letters, I’ve collected them on my website, mattdelapena.com.)
I actually wrote a picture book about wishes. It’s called Carmela Full of Wishes (illustrated by Christian Robinson). In the story, the main character, Carmela, spots a dandelion as she’s doing Sunday errands with her big brother in Watsonville, CA. After she picks the flower, and leans in to blow out all the tiny white spores, her brother stops her cold. “Did you even make a wish?” he asks her. “You’re supposed to make a wish. Everyone knows that.” This is new information for Carmela, and she spends much of the rest of the story trying to decide what her wish should be. After all, if she only gets this one wish, she can’t afford to make a mistake.
After I read this book at schools, students usually want to tell me about their own wishes. And sometimes they even ask about mine. Lately I’ve been thinking about the answers I used to give. To finish a book I’ve been struggling with. To write a middle grade novel. To continue making a living as a writer.
But those wishes don’t seem quite right anymore. All my wishes today center around the safety of family and friends and fellow writers. And health care workers. And complete strangers.
What about you? if you only had one wish, what would it be? Is the wish you’d make today different than the one you would have made a couple months ago?
Close your eyes like Carmela does in the book. And listen to the sounds all around you. What is the wish that comes into your mind? It doesn’t matter how small or how big, how serious or how silly. I really want to know your wish.