There once was a little girl named Misha who “wore” freckles. She didn’t wear them because she liked them, but because they happened to come with the rest of her face.
She tried washing them off. She tried covering them with her mom’s skin-color makeup. She tried wearing big glasses, low hats, and high collars. But nothing would remove her freckles or even hide them.
Her mother said, “Don’t worry about them.” Her dad said, “I think they’re cute.” And her grandpa said, “Your freckles are my favorite thing about you.” Of course, he had freckles too.
None of Misha’s friends had freckles. Rhoda wore glasses and had big, beautiful, black eyes. Lauren wore ribbons in her curly, fuzzy hair and could stand on her hands for a twenty-five count. Jennifer wore striped shoelaces and was very short.
One afternoon the girls were sitting on the ground in Lauren’s backyard, playing archeologists. While they were looking for arrowheads and potsherds in the sand, Jennifer announced, “I have a new secret. Look.” She showed them a piece of paper.
“What is it?” Lauren asked as she stopped digging and looked up.
“A secret wishing spell. I copied it from a book about tricks and things.” All four girls leaned close together, squinting at the writing on the crumpled piece of paper.
Put your pajama top on backward.
Let a caterpillar walk up and down your leg until you get goose bumps.
Jump over a gray hair three times.
Put your pajama top on frontward.
Turn off the light.
If you do these things fast enough, you will hear the Wish Genie ring a bell. He will grant your wish.
“Aw, I don’t believe it,” scoffed Rhoda. “You can’t really think that thing is real.”
“All that stuff is just pretend,” chimed in Lauren.
“Let me see it,” said Misha. She tried to keep her voice from sounding excited.
Jennifer gave the paper to Misha. “What are you going to wish for?” she asked.
“I don’t want to tell you,” answered Misha, “but I’ll tell you if it works.” With the paper squeezed tightly in her hand, Misha ran home. What if it works? she couldn’t help thinking. What if a genie comes and zaps my freckles?
All afternoon Misha scrambled and searched through leaves and bushes. Finally, under a rock, she found a yellow caterpillar with black stripes. With a sigh of relief, she scooped it into a jar and put the jar under her bed.
Then she went looking for Grandpa and found him reading the newspaper. His hair was gray from ear to ear. “Grandpa, may I please have one of your gray hairs?”
He stopped reading and looked at her. “Do you mind if I ask you what for?” He was always polite.
“I’m sorry, but it’s a secret right now. Maybe I’ll tell you later.” He squeezed his eyes and twisted his mouth and pulled out a gray hair. “Thanks, Grandpa,” said Misha. She ran upstairs and put that under her bed too.
That evening, Misha felt nervous and excited. For once, she didn’t argue with her mother about bedtime. She ran upstairs, slipped inside her room, and closed the door.
She quickly changed into her pajamas, being careful to put the top on backwards. Then she placed the caterpillar and gray hair carefully in the middle of the floor. She went over the steps again to be sure she could remember: Get goose bumps from the caterpillar, jump over the gray hair three times, put her pajama top on frontward, turn off the light, and listen for the genie to ring the bell. She was ready.
Misha carefully put the caterpillar on her foot, and it began to crawl slowly up her leg—creepy-crawly, ickly-tickly. Goose bumps popped out all over her! She put the caterpillar back in the jar and jumped once, twice, three times over the gray hair. She quickly pulled the pajama top off and put it back on frontward. She flicked off the light switch, and flung herself into bed as the room went dark. Finished!
Silence. Silence and darkness. She strained her ears, listening for the ringing of a bell. The beating of her heart thudded in her ears. Her head began to hurt from listening so hard. But there was no ringing, no tinkling, no buzzing—no bell.
Gradually the thudding grew quieter as her heart slowed down. She could hear dishes rattling downstairs as her mother washed them. Daddy was listening to the news on the television. But in her room, all was quiet.
Her eyes were used to the dark now, and she could see the shape of her bed. The moon was just a sliver between her curtains. She looked around. There was no Wish Genie granting magic wishes, and there never would be. Not tonight, not ever.
Tears began to trickle down her cheeks as she slipped between the sheets on her bed. She put her head on the pillow and began to cry hard.
There was a tap-tap on the door, and then Grandpa’s voice. “Do you mind if I come in?” He was always polite.
As Grandpa sat on the bed, Misha sat up and put her arms around him and began to cry even harder. When she finally stopped, Grandpa turned on the night lamp. He was very quiet as she told him the whole story.
“Granddaughter,” he said slowly, “everyone in the whole world would like to change something about himself or herself. A magic make-over is not the way to be happy. Happiness comes from accepting yourself the way you are—the way God chose to make you—with the things you like—and with the things you don’t like so much.
“Think about your friends. Do you like them just because of the way they look?”
Misha thought about Rhoda with her glasses, and Jennifer with her short legs, and Lauren with her fuzzy hair. The way they looked really didn’t matter at all. She liked them just the way they were.
Grandpa said, “You know something else? Your freckles are part of what makes you the special, one-of-a-kind person you are. You wouldn’t be you without them. Besides”—he grinned—“I have a special reason for liking those pretty little freckles. They make me feel that you belong to me, and I love you very much.”
Misha felt better than she had in a long time. She hugged her grandpa tight. “I love you, too,” she said.
She snuggled back down between the sheets as Grandpa kissed her good night. She closed her eyes and smiled a great, big, freckle-dotted smile.