Charm Offensive

When I was last reporting in Afghanistan, I learned almost all soldiers carry lucky charms. Soldiers’ faces lit up as they talked about their father’s dogtags that survived Vietnam, their grandma’s Christian crosses, holy medals, auspicious coins, their children’s Crayola-ed art laminated to carry into the field. One soldier pulled out a pacifier, dropped in his duffel bag by his baby son who felt he needed the comfort of one too.

While preparing to return to Afghanistan, it struck me I was definitely charm-deprived— clearly in need of some luck for my second round of reporting in Afghanistan. So I called on friends and family for some auspicious amulets to tote with me. Very small and very light, I requested. I do have to haul this up mountains. But thus equipped, I promise to return in good health.

So I travel through Afghanistan with a mixed bag of talismans: My musician son Dylan’s lucky drum key; youngest son Seth’s Seattle Marathon medal. Both insist they want me to hand-return their cherished mementos. (I imagined the chunks of metal deflecting a bullet.) Grandchildren sent drawings. One sister had a retrograde priest bless a St. Christopher medal. While I thought Chris had been drummed out of the saint corps decades ago, I was happy to learn the priest insisted he’d be recalled.

Friends sent a variety of charms: buckeyes, one in a velvet bag, the other with a particularly large eye; a smooth Lake Michigan rock; a JFK fifty-cent piece; a “Gratitude and Attitude medal; a Thai Buddhist namol amulet; a paladhik Shiva lingam that protects me from dogs and snakes; a Wiccan charm; an all-seeing Eye of Osiris; a Santo Expedito card (token of Brazil’s favorite go-to saint); a small sky-blue bag with a Iemanja Goddess of the Sea traveler’s protection.

Consider me charmed.


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