Like a Room Without a Roof
When one reaches adulthood, it is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate the excitement, the sheer giddiness, once engendered by the last day of school. On that day, summer glittered before us, an uncharted land of unimagined delights just waiting to be explored and the fact that we were being released to do precisely that, from sunup to sundown, was known to flood us with the feeling best described as pure happiness. With our responsibilities winnowed down to the most rudimentary - making our beds, brushing our teeth - we were set loose upon a sunny world; a world devoid of schedules; a world in which our only concern was making sure we had the adequate amount of coinage when the lilting song of the ice cream truck drifted enticingly down our street. We played outside. We ate cold watermelon and fresh corn. We slept soundly. Summer made us happy.
Happiness is a word difficult to define. I have always found it interesting that the learned men who penned our constitution declared the pursuit of happiness to be our unalienable right but didn’t, funnily enough, give any hint as to whether or not they expected us to attain that which we could so rightfully pursue. If the standard for happiness is the feeling we felt on that long ago last day of school, then no doubt as adults we all fall a bit short.
But on an afternoon last week, when the temperature soared and the air hung heavy as glue, I was in my car with a list of errands on the seat beside me. The news of the day had been bleak enough for me to turn off the radio and plug in the iPod. And that’s when I heard the new hit song, “Happy”. These days it’s rare that I am a fan of any song popular enough to reach the number one slot on the charts. I still miss The Beatles. But I had downloaded this one because I was curious and now here it was, taking its place in the rotation, ready to win me over. Without even being cognizant of the spell it cast, I soon found myself tapping my foot and nodding my head with a big goofy grin on my face.
One cannot expect to be “happy” as a usual state, can one? Happiness, elusive and momentary, is a goal perhaps best replaced by contentment. We can reside in contentment and even, diving deeper, find joy, a state unaffected by circumstance or time. Still, mercurial, even whimsical, happiness can surprise us when we least expect it and we ignore it at our peril. I myself sit ready to welcome it heartily whenever it chooses to visit me, in whatever form it chooses to take. So on this hot afternoon, I rolled down the window of my little green Fiat and let the wind tangle my hair as I sang along, happy as a lark.
I often think summers are so different now from the carefree ones of my childhood. But really, that’s not exactly true. If I’m honest, happiness (described so delightfully in that new hit song as “feeling like a room without a roof”) visits me frequently. I often dance alone in the kitchen, Edward and Apple bouncing at my ankles in a similar mood. Though I have infinitely more responsibilities than I did as a child, summer is still a wonderful time. I still manage to play outside. I still enjoy cold watermelon and fresh corn. I still sleep soundly. And Summer still makes me, more often than not, downright happy.
How about you?