They packed me, six at the time, into the old Chrysler with Mugsy, my toy monkey, and said: Get ready for a surprise! I squealed with delight! I loved surprises!
But it was Sunday. A school night. I had no clue as to what it could be. I wanted a hint. None! I kept asking! Their lips were locked! Soon, though, I heard the sounds of gravel crunching beneath the car. Oh, boy, oh, boy! We were pulling into the drive-in theatre, Nanny, PapPap and me. And I couldn’t want for a better place to be.
I was simply on top of the world, nestled between the two people I loved most in this world. They kept the name of the movie a secret from me, too. Maybe the Flintstones! Or Huckleberry Finn! In truth, it didn’t matter. I would have been happy just living in that moment forever. PapPap attached the movie speaker to the window while Nanny unloaded her wicker picnic basket.
I loved picnics – indoors, outdoors, summertime, wintertime, in the car, on the grass, any place, anywhere. And her picnic baskets were filled with everything you would expect to find at a park on a sunlit Sunday afternoon – grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, all individually wrapped in foil, potato salad, already divvied up into paper cups with lids, and pie, lots of apple pie and peach pie baked to perfection, all homemade, including the ice cold lemonade awaiting us in my grandfather’s red thermos.
As we ate under the stars, that undeniable image of a white castle appeared on the screen – Cinderella’s castle – and we were going to watch Pinocchio!
Jiminy Cricket popped onto the screen and sang a song about wishes. I loved that song! I seemed to know it by heart from the start. And he asked us: Do we believe in wishes? Without a doubt I did! Wishes were one of the best things I knew about this world.
Once home, and for quite some time after, Nanny, PapPap and I talked a lot about Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket.
“Listen to your conscience!” they would say.
“Where do I find it?” I would ask. “Does it talk?”
A question like that often led to Pap putting me on his lap. And I always had a question for him! “Can I see it in the dark?” “Is it a color?” “Does everybody have one?” “Can you lose it?” “Does it ever go to sleep?” “Will it eat a banana?”
“Well,” Nanny would say. “You were born with one already in you.”
“And,” PapPap would explain. “It’s your job to be its friend.”
He always had the perfect answer. “When you’re playing football in the yard with your friends, some of them tease Pedro because he shakes. Sometimes they laugh. But you don’t.”
“Cause it’s wrong. Cause it hurts. And I don’t want Pedro to cry.”
“So what did you do when Bobby and Dino and Rondell were teasing Pedro?”
“I told them to stop.”
“I told them the game’s gonna be over if they keep it up.”
“Who told you to say that?”
“It came from somewhere,” he would say.
“Somewhere inside of you,” she would say.
And I, with a bit of a mischievous grin, would blurt: “I think Jiminy Cricket told me!”
PapPap would laugh. Nanny would shake her finger at me. And I would revel in the love I felt from them.
But that wasn’t the only thing about Jiminy Cricket that swirled in my little mind. The song he sang stayed with me, too.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you.
Often, in the nighttime sky, I would look out my window, and wonder about those words. I sang them in my heart every day, on the way to school, even during my prayers at night. Sometimes silently, sometimes aloud. I knew them like I knew my name. And I knew those words would be true if Nanny and PapPap lived forever.
And they do. They still do. In my heart.
That’s what I so often wished upon a star.