My friend, Michelle, e-mailed me one day after we had run into each other at a trunk showing of new clothes, where we shared enthusiasm over the fashions and decided what we should buy — or shouldn’t.
She explained that she left the show, had lunch with friends, picked her little boy up at school who had scratched his arm but not too badly, returned home to find that their new, curious puppy had slept the entire time, not making one bit of a mess and that her husband had come home early from work. She ended by saying, “What a great day!”
I loved that.
Michelle had found joy in such simple things and she stopped long enough to recognize that while nothing extraordinarily exciting or profound had occurred, it was a day to be appreciated. A day where the triumphs were to be found in a little boy, whose playground accident had not required a trip to the emergency room, in good friends who shared hugs and smiles and in being happy to see her husband of 17 years earlier than usual. She found beauty in things that did not cost a cent.
It seems to me that too many people expect terrific days to be composed of winning the lottery, a promotion, a romantic date that exceeds expectations or a getaway vacation. As for me, I’ve started to find happiness in the normal things of life: the escapades of Dixie Dew and her nemeses, the cats, a mammogram that is normal, sleeping late on a rainy morning, a nap on Sunday afternoon, a beautiful sunset or a full moon that bursts with purpose through a starlit night.
Mama was always like that. Her joys were most often found in a day filled with friends or loved ones, an entire afternoon spent reading the newspaper from front to back or daffodils bursting into bloom on an early spring day. I was with her when she saw the ocean for the first time in 50 years in Biloxi. Awed, she shook her head and said, “What about that? Water as far as you can see. How pretty that is.”
A steaming bowl of homemade creamed tomato soup with a hot cake of cornbread crumbled into it for supper on a winter’s day made Mama downright rapturous.
“You need to come over and eat supper with me,” she called to say. “I’ve just made the best creamed tomato soup you ever tasted.”
Once she had been to the beauty shop and returned feeling so good about herself that she called and said — quite unusually — “Whatta ya doin’? Let’s go out and eat supper.”
I hesitated, looking around the office at a pile of work I had intended to finish. “Well, I, uh,” I began.
“I’ll buy.” These were words to sit up and take notice of. She seldom bought.
“You’ll buy?” I asked, astonished. “Boy, you must really want to go.”
“I do. My hair looks so good that I just want to go out and show it off.”
I laughed at her capriciousness and headed downstairs to change. Later, when the check arrived, she reached for her purse and unzipped it but I held up my hand. “It’s the thought that counts,” I said. “But I’ll buy.”
She shrugged and zipped back her purse. “Well, I tried.”
Now that she’s gone, I’m awful glad I said “no” to that mound of work and went with her. I’ve forgotten what work was so important that night but I’ve never forgotten that memory.
The other day it rained. Those are my favorite days. I yearned for Aunt Ozelle’s macaroni and cheese, which I only make for special occasions, but I decided to cook a homemade meal just for me and read a book.
It was a great day.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of the new book, “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter here.