The roads froze up the day after the hard snow hit through the town. At 4:20 in the morning, I got into my car, with my dad, who insisted driving me to work and picking me up later. Sure enough, very few people were brave enough to venture out the storm for a cup of coffee. The whole town was quiet, like an abandoned ghost town, with the school closings, and office delays. Families were enjoying their laid back morning with their little ones, and of course, no one was thinking about leaving the comfort of the warmth of home and hot blanket. When a third person came in at 7:30, I was sent home. “Do you want a ride to your home?” My manager, knowing my carless situation on that brutally cold morning, asked, but I insisted walking home. They thought I was crazy, but it was only 5 minutes to my sister’s house, and a little walk in the winter snow field sounded romantic. So I walked.
It was like a free trip to Antarctica, or The North Pole. The snow stopped at 4 this morning, but the piles of powdery snow were blowing across the wide open parking lot. I felt the wind pushing me from behind. It was hard to keep my body straight, and falling to the ground was a matter of time. When I finally got to my sister’s warm house, my ears were about to fall off my head, and my head was pounding hard pumping blood all over my body. It was a classy winter day.
That night, I decided to sleep over at my sister’s house. At bedtime, I snuggled with Elaine, my 5 year old niece, with her recent favorite book “Selma”. It’s a little red book about a sheep named Selma who knows about happiness so well. A wise ram tells a story of Selma when a frustrated dog comes to ask him about happiness. Each day, Selma eats a little grass at dawn, plays with her children, exercises, chats with Mrs. Miller, and falls fast asleep. When asked again what she would do if she had more time/money, Selma says she would do the exact same thing.
Elaine loved the short story so much, that she asked me to read it three times. By the third round, she memorized almost all the lines of the book. While she was reading the book back to me in her innocent 5 year old voice, I reflected on my own definition of happiness. What is happiness? Happiness is getting off work at 7:30 in the morning, walking across the parking feeling like journeying through Antarctica, and finally arriving at my sister’s house to join in the no school day with the kids. It is about playing in the snowing with the children, reading a bedtime story to my niece, and finally, and peacefully, falling fast asleep.
This morning, I woke up in my mom’s house. Dawn was creeping up into our rooms, and when we were both awake, I got into my mom’s bed and chatted with her in quiet voices. She told me the news of my aunt in Korea, the one who was battling cancer for the last 2 years. Her time on earth is finally coming to an end, and she is going to pass away soon, mom said. My uncle asked her grown up son to arrange a funeral. It must really be over for her. Perhaps she is ready for heaven. Cancer kills every bit of your cells, even the memories of your loved ones. It is sad to think that she cannot even recognize her husband. I wonder if she had a chance to say good bye to those she loves when she still had chance to.
The story of Selma’s simple happiness feels even closer to my heart this morning. I shall always remember the shortness of life, the sudden shift of its course, and the things that are most important: a little grass, your children, exercise, a friend, and a peaceful sleep that comes at night.