When the dust settled, there lay a favorite childhood book. The cover is water damaged and the pages are yellowed with time. I was cleaning my garage to make room for some things I need to store temporarily.
As I leafed through the pages I thought, “What the heck, Primer?”
Was I really such a sour puss as a kid? I don’t know what kind of mood Charles Schultz was in, but this little book, one in a series of “Happiness is …” books, is more than a little sublime.
… Happiness is coming home from the hospital … Happiness is walking home from school and not being afraid of getting beaten up … Happiness is a sad song …
Good grief Charlie Brown. I was a morbid little runt. I’d ask my mom to read this to me so many times I committed it to memory even before I could read it myself. I remember being tucked in and read to before bed. My blanket was also Shultz. On it, Snoopy lay on his dog house, eyes closed with the most contented smile. The inscription read, “Dogs were made to sleep in the sun.” Since it took years for me to be able to sleep without it, the blanket acquired an irregular pattern of patches and stitches.
Regrettably, however, some memories of my mother are becoming less vivid as the years pass. I can’t remember the sound of her voice. I’ve forgotten what a mom’s hug feels like. I do remember some things. If I get it just right, when I make chicken cacciatore or lechon I might remember the kitchen at Bluepoint Ct. We’d take turns either helping mom cook or setting the table. Or, I remember the night before we moved from Brooklyn to Long Island. All our furniture was packed leaving us to sleep on mats and in sleeping bags. I was sick and couldn’t sleep. My mom made me some broth from a bouillon cube. It was the only thing left in the kitchen. To this day, I make it the same way. The bouillon cube needs to be half dissolved making for a watery broth but leaving a stingingly salty brown bite for me to chew on. When I leave myself shorthand notes, I remember the messages she would leave around the house. You see, I’ve always needed to be told more than once.
My mom died seven years ago today. In what had become a short-lived birthday tradition, seven years and five days ago we were working in her garden. That night, the myocardial infarction that put her in the hospital and eventually ended her life occurred. I have a newly found appreciation for that little book. I’d like to add my own:
Happiness is thinking you are forgetting your mom but realizing that nothing could be further from the truth.