Happiness ( a memory)

Ping pong pang ping ping! Zringggg! Like a harp’s glissando to announce the arrival of angels! After each player’s turn, older son Dimitri would play a little melody and younger son Solomon would strum the $5 zither we’d bought in Mexico City. I cannot remember the game we played, but the magic we felt together as a family that night will remain with me forever, and I can summon forth that feeling by simply thinking of the sound that zither made. Zrringg!

We were in the midst of a trip to Mexico City, where we’d feasted on exotic cultural treasures, and now we needed to drive out of Mexico City for some hours to get to a little town called Valle de Bravo. We always get along relatively well, but people’s differing schedules, expectations, hungers, and moods at various times made it all slightly challenging, as travel often is. This particular day had been the hardest of the trip, as the traffic was tortuous, the heat hellacious, and our directions dubious. Our arrival in Valle de Bravo came later than everybody had hoped, so we all felt hot, tired, bothered, and very hungry. When we saw the sign for Hotel Rebozo, we all screamed with glee, but our ecstasy was short-lived, because the town seemed to have closed for the night, and our stomachs were groaning for attention. We found out that only one place was open, and when the hotel staff took our order for “three of whatever they have”, we weren’t optimistic. To stave off the mutinous cries of our stomachs, we showered while we waited, and then we prayed. Well, actually we didn’t, but we would’ve if we believed in such miracles, so you can imagine our surprise when our unsaid prayers were in fact answered with nothing less than a miracle.

Three covered plates were delivered, and the tension in the air was palpable. We lifted the lids off one of the plates, and there before our eyes were dozens of the hugest, most magnificent clams imaginable, nestled alluringly in a veritable mountain of pesto-laden pasta. As we opened each plate’s lid in slow motion, our mouths fell agape as the thoroughly unbelievable truth became apparent: Each plate brimmed as majestically as the first with an overwhelming bounty of the most enormous clams on this or any planet. We lifted clams to our mouths, one by one, and the room filled with oohs and aahs and the aroma of our feast, as each of us in turn surrendered to absolute pleasure, closing our eyes, pressing our lips, humming and cooing and beginning to rock slowly to and fro in our seats while gesturing vaguely into space.

When we regained consciousness somewhat, the four of us played a game, and absolutely nothing extraordinary happened, yet we were in possession of something truly extraordinary indeed: Nothing stood between us and happiness. We found ourselves as one, purged of all our exhaustion from the long, hot drive, utterly sated, safe and sound in our new home, with no pinch of hunger, no bite of bitterness, nor urge of ego interfering, no future and no fear, at last free to simply share time together, all fully present, all fully unobstructed, all fully joyous. And after each player’s move, Son #1 would play his little melody and Son #2 would strum the zither, and love and laughter ruled the universe.

Ping pong pang ping ping! Zringggg!

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