Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Happiest Days

        The first time it happened was at a restaurant in Chinatown. We were seated at our table waiting to be served in the deserted eatery—a greasy spoon with aging floors, walls, ceiling, fixtures and furniture—our first time there. Unprompted, Jaren blurted, “This is the happiest day of my life!”
     “Why?” I asked, surprised. It had been a most ordinary day with no special occasion, events, or activities.
     “Because we get to eat at fancy restaurant!”
     “Well I'm glad you like it. I do, too.”
     While it's true that we seldom eat out (by American standards), on the fanciness scale the restaurant hardly rated five out of ten, even among restaurant at which Jaren's eaten. The rest of us looked at each other bemused, buoyed by his eager anticipation and that ultimate phrase that most people so closely guard.
     The happiest days of my life included those of my wedding, Braden's birth, and his baptism (see my related Patience—Part II essay). I've lived innumerable happy days, though, so to rank them all—the transcendent, the undeserved, God's blessing bestowed—would be to underappreciate far too many, especially those that I can't immediately recall. And how could I possibly compare my own baptism (at a beach in Waikiki among members of Calvary Chapel, a church I didn't attend because I wanted to do it for God and no one else and because I love the open ocean)—one of the best things I've ever done—to the last day of Deanne's second trip to Oahu to visit me following a half-year of long-distance courtship when she sang along (a bit off key as usual) with the perfect song on a tape that she had earlier sent me as if she were singing it to me and I knew then for sure that she would be a more wonderful wife (we were already engaged) than I could every have dared hope or imagine and I broke down and cried—she thought because I was sad, but I said no, I'm just happy and she giggled and hugged and kissed me. It was her first time with me crying and she was okay with it and that made me appreciate her even more.
     I suppose the second might have been happier (emotional) because God is perfect and people are not and when things turn out right with unpredictable people it comes as such a profound surprise, whereas God always waits patiently for us to return to Him to make things right for us, though I suppose the profound surprise in the first instance was that I had done something good and right for once and didn't feel awkward or goofy at the time or compelled to do it but rather only moved and grateful for the opportunity.
     The second time it happened was after Jaren's toy laptop, a Christmas present purchased a month-and-a-half earlier from Longs Drug for twenty dollars went silent—no sound effects, music, or words. Since it ran on AA batteries, I thought I might be able to diagnose the problem, so I opened its back and noticed a disconnected wire. After stripping off a half-inch of plastic sheathing at wire's end, I placed the exposed twisted metal strands where I thought the bundle belonged and stuttering blips and buzzes issued forth. Plastic tape didn't work and even holding it in place barely did—audio came and went—at which point I knew solder would be necessary.
     My landlord, a great guy—the best landlord I've ever had, loaned me his soldering iron so twenty minutes later the cheapy toy was fixed and Jaren, delighted, said those joyful words.
     The third time it happened came a few months later, just before bedtime. Jaren said, ”Tomorrow's the happiest day of my life!”
     “Why's that?” I asked.
     “Because tomorrow I get to meet Grace Lin!” (See my prior Making A—Part II essay for explanation, regarding.)
     What's remarkable is the smallness of the things that so delighted Jaren, things that were all social by nature (he wasn't happy so much because his toy was repaired, but that we had repaired it together: He helped get the screw driver, tape, and scissors; remove and replace the retaining screws; find, pick up, and store dropped parts; and press the appropriate keys to test the various functions). And such bighearted openness to the small reminded me that life's greatest happinesses often do come during the tiniest of moments during the most insignificant of days. They've come to me while reading, praying, daydreaming, and sitting quiet with a loved one. Blessing others. Camping, swimming, and walking along a beach. Viewing a sunset. Cooking, talking, and sharing. Petting a cat, wrestling my kids, sitting alone, and watching T.V. And like fickle guests they have arrived unbidden during cool quiet evenings and during simple meals at home or even at not-so-fancy restaurants. I think it's wonderful that Jaren is so easy to please. And I suppose that anyone who chooses to, can be too.

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