Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happiness Inventory

For all of our prayers and public pronouncements and petty protests that the United States is a Christian or merely a religious nation, we celebrate a large number of pagan rituals.  Sure we have Christ-mas, but two of the most prominent symbols of the season are a Druid tree and a crazy fat man and his elves.  In addition, we honor Valentine’s Day and Halloween.  Neither originating in the Bible.  Easter is Christian-based, sure.  But where exactly was the Bunny at Golgotha?  I’ll set aside Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, which might not be as pagan as Valentine’s and Halloween, but they sure don’t have their roots in Middle Eastern mythologies, do they? 
The Journey So Far
And so I am thinking of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For Waller Grant, this year, these days mark the end of a long and very pleasant rest in Pittsboro, North Carolina, at my sister’s, “The Queen Bee’s,” house.  We parked the monster in the massive driveway of my niece’s home, stayed there a few days, and several more in a comfy bedroom at my sister’s.  I hope Dr. J and Captain Crunch are happy.  They indulged in two weeks of x-box and cable television at The Queen Bee’s house, and a little air-soft gun play in the woods beside my niece’s home. 
We probably wore out the patience of my sister and her saint of a husband, but Knightsmama and I feel rested, rejuvenated, and ready to roll out of here on January 2.  The adventure begins anew.  We have visited twenty-six states, if only some very briefly.  The goal is to hit our hometown, Austin, for a week or so in the middle of February. On the way to Austin, for the next five weeks, the plan is to enjoy the Deep South:  South Carolina, Georgia, Florida (lots of time there), Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.   In Austin, Dr. J.  needs to take his driving test and attend a Valentine’s Day Dance:  he’s sixteen.  Captain Crunch can use some time with his friends.  Knightsmama and I have business to take care of, checking in at work, dealing with broken debit cards, sharing quality time with the dentist.   On the way to Austin, we will hit the mid-point of the adventure:  six months on the road.  At that time I will post the Second Quarterly Report.
At The City Museum, St. Louis
However, here we are celebrating The New Year, our annual national holiday for honoring the mere fact that we have survived yet one more year upon this planet.  But the holiday also serves as our moment of regret and reform, which we ritualize as “resolutions.” 
New Year’s can also be celebrated by the writing of one of the strangest of writing genres.  A genre is a type or form of writing that comes with some history and expectations for the reader.  In my world, the world of English teachers, the most obvious genres are lyric poetry, epic poetry, plays, novels, and short stories.  Very seldom do we confuse any of these.  We know what they are when we see them, and we have expectations about what happens in them as we read. 
But, of course, there are all sorts of other genres.  A prayer, for instance.  We have expectations about how a prayer begins, what we say in a prayer, and how a prayer ends.  One of the interesting books of our time discusses the three basic reasons for indulging in prayer, Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow.  Pretty succinct.   Other genres include business letters, recipes, grant proposals.  I am writing all this because the season is making me think of the genre of Family Holiday Letter.  You know that letter, a few of which, already you have mostly likely received already—“Dear friend,  Well, it has been another amazing year for the [submit name] family.  [Submit name] is still working at [submit name].  We can’t believe that [submit pronoun] has been there for [submit number] years.  [Submit name] still enjoys the work, and we are very thankful that the company remains one of the leaders in its field.  [Submit name], the first [son/daughter], is loving high school.  [Submit pronoun] stays busy on the [select one: volleyball, swim, chess, science, Latin team].” And so on.  It’s all good news or if there is something difficult to report, it is couched in language that indicates that no self-pity is allowed and things are getting better. 
Knightsmama on the AT

Having said all this, even though I find these letters terribly interesting as a genre, I will not write that kind of letter this year.  Geez, if you don’t know what Waller Grant has been up to . . . . well, please see previous blog posts or tune in in February when I will forward the second quarterly report.
Instead, I am going to share with you a spiritual practice that our friend Meg Hoke introduced us to when we visited her and her husband Todd last week in Hendersonville, North Carolina.  The practice is simple:  each day, every day, list five things that made you happy.  Share this with your spouse, a friend, and/or family.  I think Knightsmama and I will begin this practice on January 1.  But I thought, right here, this once, I would a list of “five happy things” from the trip so far.  Even more, I would include Knightsmama, Dr. J, and Captain Crunch in the fun.  You will understand that there are many, many, many more happy things that all of us have experienced. But these moments come to our minds quickly.
Captain Crunch lists: 
·      Visiting the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri
·      Making new friends at Shawnee State Park, Ohio
·      Visiting family at Pittsboro, North Carolina
·      Hiking at Acadia National Park
·      Learning to Ski at Massanutten Ski Resort, Virginia
 Dr. J lists:
·      Going to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts
·      Hanging at the beach in Pinery Provincial Park, Lake Huron, Ontario
·      Hiking Precipice at Acadia National Park, before getting lost
·      Watching the basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets at the Barclay Center
·      Visiting the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C.
Jordan at the Basketball Hall of Fame

Knightsmama shares these: 
·      Playing Balderdash, over Thanksgiving at the Carpenter’s house in Boyd, Maryland
·      Climbing to the top of Beehive in Acadia National Park with the boys.
·      Hanging at the beach at Pinery Provincial Park, Lake Huron, Ontario
·      Picking apples at Wellwood Farms, outside of Springfield, Vermont
·      Enjoying Happy Hour with a glass of wine and the flatbreads with the Dude at Cherrystones CafĂ©, Bar Harbor
And now the news you have been waiting for, here is Major Dude’s list of five happy things experienced on the trip.
·      Playing catch with Dr. J. and Captain Crunch on beach at Montauk, Long Island
·      Completing the 26 mile bike ride with Dr. J. in Acadia National Park
·      Watching the boys ice skate in Central Park, New York City
·      Drinking a beer, eating calamari, with Knightsmama at The Deck in Salisbury, Massachusetts
·      Seeing the boys and Knightsmama emerge from woods in West Hartford, Vermont, after they had hiked part of the Appalachian Trail

There you have it, twenty happy memories from the past five months.  We could have listed 200.  Here’s hoping your new year is full of joy.  I will keep you posted on our further happy moments.

Soundtrack.  Blood, Sweat, and Tears:  "You Made Me So Very Happy."

1 comment:

  1. Once again, my heart joined your heart as your voice told your story about your mother. Brought tears to my eyes more than once. While reading what your mother cooked for your birthdays, shirts she sewed, and baseball games she watched. I also heard you when you said she related to her daughters easier than to you.
    Be well, my friend.
    Love you,