Part One – The Wonder Years

The very first time that I saw him, I was only a ten-year-old tomboy dragging my mum through the crowds of the Lantern Festival, breathless with anticipation as I’d finally persuaded my parents to let me stay out way past my bedtime.

It was the middle of Summer, and the streets were alive; vendors praised their food loudly from decorated stalls, and others beckoned with activities like scooping goldfish, which many tried with giggling bursts of laughter. Yellow bulbs of light decorated the trees stretching up to the heavens and people milled about everywhere, their chatter blending with the constant threads of music.

Eagerly, I almost ran faster than my feet could carry me, making my way through a tiny path in the throng of festival-goers; my hands clinging strongly to an orange sky-lantern that I would send into the sky tonight, along with countless others.

In those days I had the attention span of a millisecond and even more energy than my little body could handle – but, all of that seized to be the moment I looked up into the darkening sky... and I noticed him: the Wishmaker.

Before school had ended, it had been all we could talk about; the legend of the Wishmaker. For it was said that if you spotted the man with his straw hat sitting on a flat rooftop, a sky-lantern in his hands, your deepest wish could come true...

Nobody knew where the legend came from, how it started or by whom, but for as long as anybody could remember it was tightly entwined with the Lantern Festival and warm August nights, on which people came together to entrust wishes to the wide open skies.

I remember clearly that I simply stopped and stared, my mouth wide-open, everything around me completely forgotten. I had fantasized about this moment, argued with my best friend if the legend was true or not – she said no, I said yes – and many kids had teased me for believing so strongly, but there he sat, as big as life.

My heart started racing, my palms felt sticky with something more than just sweat, and suddenly my Mum had appeared at my side, softly caressing my cheek with her always-cool-hands, whispering, “Make a wish, honey.”

But, that day I didn’t have to; my wish had already come true.

The Wishmaker, as I had believed, was real.

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