What do you figure the odds are of finding a four-leaf clover without even looking?
I know -- but I'm not telling, just yet.
But I will tell you it's been more than 20 years since I plucked one from the yard at my mother's house.
And wouldn't you know, there was one sitting on my washing machine in the kitchen this morning -- just in time to remind me how lucky I was to have been in Mr. Nelson's ninth-grade honors English class at Woodrow Wilson High School back in 1974.
We were in the midst of a fascinating rotation which included Greek mythology, Shakespeare, Hemingway and public speaking. And we were just getting our final pep talk on how to speak effectively to a bunch of ninth graders (talk fast and use a visual aid), when I noticed the kid sitting next to me looked a little green about the whole prospect.
"Whassamatter?" I asked him.
"Nervous, I guess," said the quiet kid who lived down the street, whom I had known casually since seventh grade.
Since it was my nature to be helpful, I had a brainstorm. I reached into my 14-year-old bag of tricks. It took a minute of sifting through some other good stuff -- notes passed to me by my friend Irene in science class, pencil stubs with big rubber erasers, loose lunch change and a broken cigarette -- but I found it.
It seemed as if I had pulled a stubborn sword from an ancient stone.
"Here. Maybe this will help," I said, offering a little green clover encased in Saran Wrap to my jittery friend.
"What's this?" he asked, perhaps thinking I was peddling some unrefined drug.
"It's a four-leaf clover. I found it the other day in my back yard -- without even looking. You can keep it. Really."
And my token was just in time.
"Jimmy Robidoux -- you're up," Mr. Nelson bellowed in his best baseball umpire voice.
And thanks to the lucky charm, Jim hit a homerun that day.
"I got an A," he mouthed the words to me, once his heart had found a normal pace again, following his dynamic speech on biblical truth and the end of the world.
Later that day, he even had the courage to stop by my house and thank me again, this time with sound.
"I thought I'd better return this -- in case you needed it for your speech tomorrow," he said politely.
I shrugged it off and told him to keep the clover. I guess I had more than enough confidence in my knowledge of surrealist painter Salvador Dali, my topic of choice.
And besides, I had a really cool visual aid prepared -- a decent reproduction of Dali's "Melting Clocks" -- just in case I didn't fascinate my peers for three minutes with the content of my research.
And I would have invited Jim in for a Fresca, at that point.
But he said he'd better get back to his girlfriend, Jennifer, who was busy digging her toes into the gravel at the bottom of my driveway.
Anyway, it only took us about three more years and a few failed attempts at finding true, teenage love with other partners until we were able to fully comprehend the power of a wilted weed.
Five years later we were married.
And this Friday will be our 16th wedding anniversary.
So when I saw the familiar little rectangle of Saran Wrap surrounding a green, four-leaf clover on top of my washing machine, naturally, I had to ask my husband, "Where'd this come from?"
"Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you. Aimee's friend, Kira, found a bunch of them. She said she was getting out of Aimee's car right in front of the house and she saw one -- a whole bunch of them, in fact. I wrapped one up for you. I have one in my wallet, too," said my husband, marveling, "What do you figure the odds are of finding a four-leaf clover, let alone a whole bunch of them, just like that, without even looking?"
I suppose it was a rhetorical question.
But as I said, I suddenly know the answer.
The chances of finding a four-leaf clover, just like that, without even looking, are probably once in a lifetime.
Unless God decides to send a simple anniversary present to a couple of impulsive teenagers who survived ninth-grade English class and went on to find each other eventually, against all odds, like a tiny miracle in a field of clover.
Originally Published June 5, 1995
Bucks County Courier Times