I won a door prize when I was twelve. My mother had insisted I take an eight-week class in ballroom dancing. For the last class they brought in a band, we all dressed up and there were ice cream sandwiches, lemonade and door prizes. When they called my name for a prize I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Then, with great fanfare they presented me with a rectangular wooden box full of pansy plants. Today I would be delighted with such a prize, but as a budding adolescent, I would have preferred a rhinestone tiara.
When I was thirty-three I won a cart full of groceries. I went to the grand opening of the first American-style supermarket near our home in Guatemala City and stocked up on all the specials. My children loved the little individual cans of Kern’s apricot juice available there and I had asked for a case, but they were sold out. As I was a checking out an alarm clock went off, and the clerk told me I did not have to pay for the groceries. The cash register showed over fifty dollars. That was a lot of money in 1965, and as the store manager’s face fell, I heard him say in Spanish, “Thank God we were out of apricot juice.”
Aside from a few awards and prizes—which I earned—that is the extent of my luck as far as beating the odds to win a raffle. That is, until last Saturday night. I buy tickets, never expecting to win. I do it because I am a friend of the person selling them, or because I am committed to the cause the proceeds will support. This time I was the person selling and the cause was a sound system for Polly and the Posse, the music performance group headed by my granddaughter-in-law. She and her cohorts have created their own version of “hickster jive.” Polly is also a glassblower, and her many craft-artist friends donated enough work that there were over fifty winners. They sold a lot of tickets.
So here’s the amazing part. I’m at the age in life where I have plenty of stuff including a modest art collection. I figured if I won something I would use it for a gift. But there was one particular blue glass bowl that caught my eye and I briefly thought, “now that I would really like to win.” The raffle was held as part of a big party with lots of Posse music before and afterwards plus plenty to drink and nibble on. I knew it would be energetic and entertaining, but also long, loud and late. Certain that I wouldn’t win anything, I decided to stay home, tune my Bose to the classical music station turned down low, and read my upcoming book club selection, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page. The next morning when I got the glowing report from Tammy (my daughter-in-law) on the event—a smashing success—she added, “…and you won something, the John Geci bowl.”
Not only had I won a raffle, I had won the blue bowl! It is even lovelier than the picture. While it looks massive, it is lightweight and when the sun shines through the bowl, it dances a little on the way. I dance a little too when I walk past it.
I have been following the basketball March Madness a little more than usual this year because once again Butler is in the running; my granddaughter Lydia is a junior there. So I paid attention to an analyst on NPR who was giving a rundown on the assets of the final four. After lots of basketball detail that I didn’t understand, he said “Then, of course, there is always the luck factor.” He went on to explain that some teams just seem to have more good luck than others. Bathed in a feeling of being lucky, I paused to contemplate his commentary. I have lived my life as an optimist, expecting things to work out. I was certainly lucky in love and my adult life has been full of happy turns of fate; I tend to remember those things. I don’t dwell on the broken bones and weird illnesses I have endured or on the occasional mishaps with cars. When there are near misses or minor calamities in my life, I am apt to say to myself “Well, nothing really bad happened.” That means no one was killed, a house didn’t burn down or I can mend the tear in my favorite blouse.
In 1976 I went back to Guatemala in the wake of an earthquake in which 25,000 people were killed, and the devastation was greatest for the poorest people. We still owned a little vacation house near Lake Atitlan. It was badly damaged and I needed to tend to it. I also wanted to check on friends, including Lorenza, who had worked for me when we lived there a decade earlier. As I sat with her family in a makeshift lean-to constructed from the remnants of a tin roof found in the rubble, they told me all the earthquake jokes and laughed joyfully as they said, “No one in our family died.” In Japan today where both the known damage and the threat of a worse nuclear calamity are beyond easy comprehension, people are told to stay calm. Everyday in all parts of the world people are finding ways to cope with what seems like incredible bad luck.
“It’s not fair,” my children would say when they were little.
“Life’s not fair,” I would answer.
The truth is stuff just happens all the time: sometimes it is incomprehensible and leaves me aching with sadness, sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it has a little help along the way. So my thanks go to Polly and the Posse for bringing music and fun and a raffle into our lives here in the mountains; to John Geci for making and donating a bowl that sunlight can dance through; and to the person who pulled my ticket from the hat.
As for the Butler Bulldogs, I hope they have a very large luck factor.