Saturday I walked to lunch and back with my mother, under the parade of oak trees on her street. It had rained, on and off, stopping long enough for us to make it to the restaurant and back, breathing in the beating humidity that had set up camp. When we got back to the front door of her duplex, she pulled out her keys, and codaed our conversation: “Mothers just want everyone to be happy.”
I have watched many members of my parents’ generation mellow back into a wiser version of their hippie stereotype. They have decided what is worth fighting about (a few things) and what isn’t (a whole lot). Many baby boomers, who used to hiss and puff up like alley cats when you disagreed with their politics or religion, have now decided to vote and pray and smile and shrug. My mother and a lot of the other mothers have narrowed their interests: “We just want everyone to be happy.”
“Happy” is popular in Chinese merchandising. One of my favorite fireworks was hung from a tree limb, lit, and spun itself wacky with sparks before poofing out into a Happy Lamp.
“Happy” takes me right into Tolstoy’s universe, too. Saturday night, I swept my hand across the spine of every book on my shelf, looking for Anna. I couldn’t find her.
Happy isn’t really popular in spiritual circles. Peace and joy and nirvana, but happy? I think “happy are those who…” just sounds like “You ought to. You really ought to.”
Happy seems shallow. Happy seems too light an emotion for me to wear. I like wool and sharp seams, layers, linings, A-lines. In my clothes and my moods.
Then again, I do recall making a childish wish at the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It was blasting hot, all that bubbling white marble and no shade or green. My feet hurt. I took out a penny for my wish, since I thought I should make it clear to the ambiguous wish granter that I was American– I should distinguish my wish from the Euro and Yen thrown in. I fretted about the wording as I sat on the edge of the water. Of course, I can’t tell you what wish I decided on. It had the word “happy” in it, though. I think it won’t jinx me to reveal that much.