To those who have not yet learned the secret of true happiness, begin now to study the little things in your own door yard.
George Washington Carver
Have you ever had one of those days when you are just happy and at peace living in the moment?
I’ve had those days before. Few and far between though. This past Valentine’s Day was one. My kids were with their dad. The night before, my husband had returned home from his 5 day ski trip. And we hadn’t really planned the day. We decided to go downtown for a late lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. You know, one of those upscale places with a long dark bar and margaritas made with interesting combinations of homemade ingredients, not super-sweet from a bottle. On this Hallmark holiday, we sat at the bar and had a pitcher of prickly pear margaritas and ancho-honey glazed mahi mahi, some tacos and spicy guacamole. And I felt like I was out of town, on a vacation with my husband. Great moment, great day.
And it happened to me again a couple of days after that. Twice in one week. A rarity.
My daughter and I went down to Miami to hear a concert given by the trumpet-playing son of my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Stafford. She was going to be there too, along with her husband, Mr. Stafford. Our relationship went beyond school because she and my mom became friends, having gotten to know one another when my mom volunteered at the school, George Washington Carver Elementary. The family moved not too long after I was in her class but she and my mom kept in touch over the years.
When my mom told me that they were all coming to town, there was no doubt in my mind that I would go too. And even better, that I would pull my 10 year-old daughter out of school and bring her. She plays the saxophone. This is her second year playing. And she’s good. She’d be better if she practiced more but I don’t push. I want her to enjoy it. She was ecstatic about our upcoming Miami adventure. We both were.
The week before the concert, my mind was full of memories from my early elementary school days. I spent a few hours looking through my big bin of photos, letters and mementos (see my last post Happily Nostalgic), remembering winning the Spelling Bee, and hanging out with my best friend Kristi, who also moved away. I even tried to find her through the Internet but couldn’t. (If anyone knows Kristi Logue, tell her that I’m looking for her.)
The night before the concert, I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep. The anticipation was like a drug. So, I just got up early, had my first cup of coffee and tried to stop smiling. My face was going to start hurting. My daughter and I made the hour plus drive, got to the auditorium early and met up with my mom and step-dad outside. Mrs. Stafford wasn’t there yet. She didn’t even know that I was coming. Neither did Terell. My mom and I had decided that it would be more fun this way. We decided to go inside so we could get good seats.
And there was Terell. Standing there talking to someone. I waited until they were done, thinking what do you say to someone that you haven’t seen since you were a kid? How do you approach them? I was nervous but I walked over to him. His back was to me so I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me sir?” He turned around and had a quizzical look on his face. I said, “You don’t remember me but I knew you when you were this little (raising my hand not too far off the ground) and I was this little (raising my hand a little higher up off the ground)”. He looked even more puzzled, especially since I am still almost that little and he now towers over me. I told him who I was. His smile became almost as big as mine and he enveloped me in an enormous bear hug. Then I pointed out where my family was, my mom, step-dad and daughter, and he went over and gave my mom the same kind of wonderful hug.
A few minutes later his parents walked in. I would have recognized my former teacher anywhere. She looks pretty much the same as she did back in 1971. We all hugged and kissed. So much to say to each other but first we listened to the concert. Which was amazing. Terell was accompanied by a few other musicians, all good, but he was the highlight. My daughter, sitting next to me, was enthralled by being so close to the musicians and by the Jazz music they were playing. Then, Terell dedicated a song to me and my mom, which made us both teary. And like that, the concert was over and we all went to lunch together to try to catch up on the last 35 years or so.
And the lunch conversation was fun, easy and full of laughs but ended way too soon. Almost like a tease. The Staffords had to make a long drive home and Terell had to return to the college to be the guest clinician for a music class. So, we took some pictures and then my parents, my daughter and I accompanied Terell to the class. And that was yet another awesome experience. Four kids, on piano, drums, trombone and trumpet, would play part of an arrangement for Terell and then he would teach them how to make it better while imparting anecdotes and advice he had learned along the way to his current success as a world-renowned musician, as an educator and as the director of the Jazz Studies program at a university.
But then my daughter and I had to go. I wanted to beat the afternoon traffic leaving downtown Miami. All the way home, I thought about the day’s events from start to finish. And how the day was everything I had imagined it would be. And just as important, how great that my daughter had been there with me, what a great experience for her and how much she enjoyed it. Definitely worth missing a day of school for.
And these are the things that stand out for me about the day. Firstly, how lucky I was to have had a teacher for two years that was as wonderful as Mrs. Stafford. I was a painfully shy child and she saw past that and helped nurture me. At the concert last week, she recounted for me how quietly I spoke back then and how she would have to lean in very closely to hear me. And then she remarked that I had changed!
Secondly, what a truly unique experience it is to reconnect with people who you only knew when you were a child. And to find out that the common bond of our past history together is enough for us to be able to forge a new bond now. I hope I get to introduce Terell and his parents to the rest of my family. And I hope they take me up on an invitation to dinner at my house and the chance to sample some of the best food around, prepared by my husband of course.
And lastly, how fortunate I am that I am able to have these days of experiencing true happiness and am at peace (most of the time) just living in the moment. That’s a big change for me too.
Now if I could just get my children to stop fighting.