I woke this morning to a compliment: “You are a pretty flower.” Spoken from the lips of my son as we sat in McDonalds eating Timbits and burritos this chilly morning (ignore our diet, please, it really is a Sunday morning treat – and sometimes Monday and Wednesday and Friday treat…). He had bitten into a timbit and fixed his stare on me. I tilted my head and looked perplexed. That is when he softly spoke the words to me. I pursed my lips and rubbed my eyes and thanked him for saying something so sweet to his mama. Maria saw this entire scene and quickly chimed in with “Mom, you are a…a… pretty flower.” She is usually pretty quick with a quip to follow-up on her brother’s so she must believe that Mario summed it up pretty well to simply repeat his compliment. I swallowed both of their compliments up and stored them away in that place all of us mothers have – the “I need to remember something positive about these kids” storage chest that we can open when all heck is breaking loose and we feel like we need to escape but cannot. If we can just take ourselves back to one of those memories, hopefully we can stay sane enough to make it through the breakdown. Kinda like chocolate….
On our stroller ride home, Mario finally admitted he was cold. Both kids refuse to wear big coats or hats or gloves even though it is only 38 degrees outside. I bring their coats and accessories because I know eventually they will request them – or I should say, one will request them. Mario. Maria is a cold weather machine; a heater; a polar bear. She has our warm blood streaming through her and it takes a blizzard to make her slightly chilled. When we got home, Mario went straight to the Wii for a b-ball game. Maria and I went back out for a stroll and talked about Mario’s birth, her birth, what kind of car I had growing up, what kind of car she wants when she gets older, and boyfriends (she is so inquisitive about the past – I love it).
When we got back home, Maria and Mario played Wii together while Jon worked and I cleaned. They went upstairs after five games and took a bath. Maria loves it when Mario is in a good mood because he will play Barbies with her. He still uses his Spiderman figurine but he will act like Spiderman is talking to Barbie, they go on dates, talk about their friends, and so on. It is hilarious to listen to from behind the door. They played a good half hour before they started to splash the water around the tub and all over the floor. We politely screamed at them to get out, and before we knew it, there were two naked children in Maria’s room reciting “we are robots” and giggling hysterically.
Jon and I continued to work and clean and Maria and Mario played together upstairs. After another half hour, Maria yelled down asking if we were both ready for a fashion show. “Sure!” we yelled back to her. She introduced her and Mario while they waltzed down the stairs and stepped off the landing in a beautiful display of velvet green and plaid. Mario in a button down shirt and Maria in a dazzling dress. I screamed like they were teen idols, and asked for their photo and autograph, which Maria loved. I also asked if I could kiss her cheek and she blushed with excitement. “You are such a superstar, Ri, thanks for saying hi to me!” She laughed and waved goodbye and went up to help Mario who realized he had a tear in his pants (causing him to bolt up the steps to avoid being seen by any other fans).
I finished cleaning the cabinet in the kitchen. While I scrubbed spaghetti sauce off the white paint and listening to M&M laughing upstairs and talked to Jon about our week ahead, I felt a surge of happiness through my bones. Pure, raw happiness. Life could have stopped right there at that second – my head swirled with happiness about who I was, people I loved, experiences I had, places I traveled, choices I made. All in that moment.
This evening I perused the NY Times and happened by Roger Cohen’s post titled The Happynomics of Life. England’s prime minister has decided to create a happiness index. Cohen argues that this idea is not outrageous and could be helpful if used wisely. He notes that when Western industrialized societies started measuring gross domestic product, the issue for many was survival. But now that most of us have enough to live on — or far more than enough by the standards of human history — the question may want to turn to: “What’s going on inside our heads?” Trying to make a shift from financial prosperity to emotional prosperity. Putting value on things that don’t have price tags: open spaces, clear air, security, release from pressure — things of growing importance but also growing scarce.
Cohen thought of some recent moments of happiness in his own life. “One came walking across Regent’s Park, my skin tingling at the first brush of spring. Another came kissing my daughter goodnight as she slept and seeing how peaceful she was. A third came in Cairo seeing the powerful dignity of the Egyptian people coalescing to bring peaceful change. These moments were linked to nature, to finding time, to feeling the transcendent power of the human spirit. Emotional prosperity is not the next e-mail in a relentless life.”
His piece struck me based on my experience earlier in the day, and stayed with me as I took Maria and Mario and Maria’s friend, Jonera to Jeni’s for ice cream. They all ran ahead of me laughing at Mario making silly faces at them. They giggled the entire time at Jeni’s about goofy things – Mario’s dancing, Maria’s kissing frenzy, the puppy at the window waving to us. We walked home with the crisp cusp of Winter at our side but with birds chirping and people on their porches clearing the way for swings and planters.