Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mind over matter

Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their mind to be.
~attributed to Abraham Lincoln

I have a loooong memory. 

I'm one of those people who has bizarrely early memories of their childhood and a particularly uncanny ability to remember the seemingly unimportant and insignificant details of life. In fact, I tend to specialize in childhood memories that would appear to have no memorable qualities at all. 

Random things we ate in places that don't matter. What someone was wearing. The book I was reading at the time. Snippets of conversations that served no purpose beyond the moment in which they existed. 

I can hardly tell you any of the names of the cities or historic places my cousin Tracy and I visited on our trip to Germany with our grandparents, but I can sure tell you about the 99 different things we laughed about during those 10 days. If she were here and I suddenly barked out, "PURE VASSAR!" she would collapse in a fit of laughter, I guarantee it.

One such small moment has been bubbling up in my memory bank these past weeks. Ever since choosing my Word of the Year, I've been replaying a scene from Lori: The Early Years over and over.

I was about 9 or 10 years old.

(If my sister is reading this she is laughing right now because I almost always think I was about 9 or 10 years old when recalling memories from childhood. Must have been a big year for me. 😉  )

My dad had just come home from work and I could hear the door from the garage to the house slam shut. 

(For years and years after he died, I still associated that sound with him coming home. It took a long time for the disappointment to fade, hearing that door close and having it still not be him.)

His heavy steps went from the mud room, to the TV room, to the front hallway. I came running up from the basement to say hello to him.

I was probably in the basement because after around the age of 10 (!) that's where my bedroom was to be found. And I would have been running because there was a space between my bedroom door and the bottom of the stairs where it was still possible for the basement monsters to grab me if I didn't move fast enough. 

Oh, you don't believe me?

Ha. Well, I'd have liked to see you try casually walking from my childhood bedroom to the stairs. I'm 100% certain we would have never seen you again. 

I, myself, was taking no chances and always, always made a mad dash from the threshold of my bedroom to that first bottom stair. Once you hit the staircase you were safe but I always ran up the rest of them as well, because you can never be too careful when dealing with basement monsters. 

As I careened up those final stairs and made the hairpin turn into the front hallway my dad stopped his trek from the garage-to-mud-room-to-tv-room-to-hallway-to-kitchen, his final destination, and smiled at me. 

Most likely, he said something like, "Well, Lorinda! (One of his many nicknames for me.) How ya doin'?"

And I must have said, "Great!" Or, "Good!" Or, "Super Duper!" Because the part I remember most is what he said next.

He gave me a squeeze and issued what became a prophecy over my life. 

Oh, I don't think he knew that's what he was doing for one second. I think he was just saying what came to mind in that moment. But sometimes the things we say without thinking too hard about them are the very truest things that we really mean the most.

At least, that's the way I took it.

He gave me one of his famous hugs, squeezing my face into that barrel chest and said, "That's what I love about you. You're always happy. You're a happy person, Lorinda. That's a good thing to be."

And off he went to sort through the mail he had carried in, and to talk to my mom about his day and what was for dinner, and to probably lie down on his bed and read one of the 18 magazines he subscribed to.

And I went slowly back downstairs-until I got to the bottom and then had to sprint to my bedroom- thinking to myself all the way.... "I am? I'm a happy person?"

I wasn't always a happy kid. I could be brooding, and emotional, and WAY too dramatic at times. No one is always a happy person. My dad knew that. This wasn't about setting up some expectation for my life that I could never attain. This was about a general quality he saw in me, or maybe it's just what he saw in me in that moment.

But it stuck with me. 

And whether it was something that was always there and he just gave it life, or it was something that grew out of his words, but from that day forward I strived to be the person my father saw in me. I believed myself to be at my core...a happy person. 

Which is why I'm still here believing in the pursuit of happiness. Even in my moments of deepest sorrow, there has always been a part of me deep down that believed I would feel happy again. And when those happy moments come, however fleeting, I try to grab them. I try to remember to close my eyes and add them to my stockpile of memories so they can be used as band-aids when the wounds of life break open again. 

I'm a happy person.

I always have been.

My Dad told me so.

"Children will not remember you for the material things you provided,
but for the feeling that you cherished them."
~Gail Grenier Sweet

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