During winter days with endless gray, cloudy skies, I struggle to stay positive. Sometimes I think I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, because I can barely abide January and February in Tennessee. I noticed how my spirits lifted yesterday when I went outside in the sunshine around 3:15 p.m. (after being inside for a daylong meeting).
Anyway, to cope with seasonal depression and otherwise down moments, I keep a file of humor and moments that make me smile. I return to this file (one literal, in my desk at work, the other just a collection of memories in my head) again and again to bolster my spirits.
In no particular order, here are some moments that make me smile:
* Two jokes my mother used to tell over and over. “Did you hear about the old woman who peed in the ocean? She said, ‘Every little bit helps.’ ” and “What did the old gray mare do as the farmer was feeding her, when he asked her, ‘How many oats would you like?’ She lifted up her tail and said, ‘A few.’ ”
* Our son, Daniel, when he was very young (maybe 3), responding to John when John told him, “Watch your head” (meaning “Watch out, son, you’re going to hit your head”): “But Daddy, I can’t watch my own head!”
* My dad bringing ice cream out of a Howard Johnson’s restaurant one hot summer’s day to me, at least two cousins, and my mom and aunts. I don’t know why we were outside and he was the only one to carry the ice cream out (maybe my memory is inaccurate), but I remember how the ice cream was running down his arms, and I remember the smile on his face as he struggled to carry all those ice cream cones.
* John bursting into tears at our wedding during the part of the vows that says, “and all my worldly goods” … and my brother-in-law reaching over to pat him on the shoulder.
* Listening to the recording of our wedding and hearing the two officiating ministers hum very loudly on the hymn sung by the congregation: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.” They knew the first stanza, but that was all.
* Julie as a toddler, running toward me with her arms outspread and reaching up
* Watching Julie and Daniel jump the waves at the beach
* The photos that John took of our family at Clearwater Beach, FL … and how many of them showed this one older woman’s huge butt
* Driving Daniel and some of his friends down West End Avenue when they were in middle school … and how they rolled down the window and hollered “SPANDEX!” at no one in particular. (This was one of the times I realized how totally goofy middle schoolers are.)
* A sleepover we had when Daniel was in second grade … how we had pizza that night, the boys were sprawled all over our living room floor and making armpit fart noises, and then later the aroma of real farts and how they giggled helplessly
* My cousin Joe getting pulled over by a cop when we were on our way to trombone and clarinet lessons with Mr. & Mrs. Edgar Allen Poe. He was speeding on Center Street in Kingsport…I remember the flashing lights (were they blue or red at that time?) and how tense he was as the policeman talked to him and told him how fast he’d been going. I also remember Joe being teased later by our aunt Reb, “Weren’t you glad when they freed you?”
* Reb trying to help my papaw up the steps into their house (I was a teenager at the time), and how he was fighting her (he was senile) and she got mad at him and said, “Bitch!” I corrected her and said, “No, Reb, the word is bastard!” (We never spoke like that in my family. My mother wouldn’t even let me say “golly” or “gee” when I was growing up.)
* Riding around Jefferson City, TN with my roommate and suite mates in my little gray Chevette…while I was still learning to drive a stick shift. I kept stalling out whenever we’d have to stop at a red light, and it was kind of scary on the hills around Carson-Newman College (now University)
* My aunt Reb and cousin Sue trying to teach me how to drive said Chevette during Christmas holidays
* My dad’s consternation over my lack of knowledge about driving a stick shift AFTER he’d bought the car. (Shouldn’t he have wondered whether something was going on when we test drove the car and I declined to drive?) He drove the car away from the dealership, and we stopped at the Kings-Giant Plaza in Kingsport so I could take the wheel. When we immediately stalled out, he practically hollered, “Anne, I thought you could drive a straight shift!” To which I replied, “And when did you think I would learn?”
* My dear friend Kent letting me drive his brown Capri at Cherokee Dam. This was the first and only time I’d driven a manual transmission, and as I recall, it was a whole lot easier to drive than my Chevette
* My friend Eddie Calcote asking me one day in high school Spanish class, “Anne, I haven’t heard you talk about your grandfather lately. How is he?” To which I replied drily, “Dead!” We both collapsed into laughter.
* The stories I heard at the (then) Baptist Sunday School Board about errors that nearly made it into print. One was in the 3rd-4th grade Sunday school curriculum and was in a story about King Solomon rebuilding the temple. “And all the people bowed before Solomon’s erection.” Oops!
* How an appraisal reader tactfully pointed out that perhaps we didn’t want to use the word “Snafu” in one of our publications. I didn’t know the origin of that word. I laughed out loud when I looked up the dictionary definition.
* My friend Ginny and I laughing about a woman in her 50s (when we were in our 20s) farting when she passed by Ginny’s desk. (I also laugh when I think about the unwritten rule that many women observe: Never admit that you fart, and if you do fart, just ignore it and hope no one will notice.)
* Just this week, a colleague explaining why she keeps geranium fragrance in her office: to cover up the scent of her farts. She said this in front of me and a guy who usually blushes at such revelations. I said, “Andrew, you didn’t even blush.” He replied, “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this!”
* The time I had to give an impromptu speech in Callies (Calliopean Literary Society, a fancy name for what was really a sorority) about how I’d gotten poison ivy on my ear and side of my face. (From making out with a guy behind the football stadium)
* How hearing the song “There’s Gonna Be a Heartache Tonight” by the Eagles brings back memories of a drunken night in college. My roommate and suite mates saved the day by coming to rescue me and another girl from what I thought was going to be a big party. When my friends came to fetch us, I was lying on the couch singing at the top of my lungs, “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight!” How true those words were, only it wasn’t a heartache. Never got sicker in my life.
* Our kitty Snowflake cuddling up with me on the couch whenever I had a migraine or was otherwise sick. I called her my angel kitty.
* Flashback to when I was about four years old: my mom and I stopped at what is now Pratt’s Barn (Restaurant?) in Kingsport. There was a grocery store and gas station with a huge Indian statue out front. My mom was getting gas (in the days when someone pumped your gas for you), and I went to satisfy my curiosity, peeping up under the Indian statue’s loin cloth. I said, “Mommy, Mommy, there’s a wasp’s nest up his bumpy!” My mom tried to ignore me, so I got louder and louder… I still remember how embarrassed she was.
* Also when I was about three or four, my dad brought home a doll for me. It was bigger than me. My mom kind of pooh-poohed him for getting such a big doll. I loved that doll fiercely. Her name was Marcella.
* John and me on our first trip to Europe in 1985. On a train from Munich to Florence, we decided to play dumb Americans. (It wasn’t very hard!) We had tried to reserve a sleeping berth on a train, but it was a holiday weekend and all of the overnight compartments were sold out. A kind German family allowed us to stay with them in their compartment. Whew. We made it by the conductor without incident. I remember consulting my German-English dictionary to try to have conversation with them. (John and I “ich spreike kein deutsche” could only understand a few words. They asked us if we had any bambinos. I got tickled when they used an Italian word to communicate with us.)
Oh, there are so many memories. These are a few of the moments that make me smile. Thank God for laughter, life, and the rich experiences with family and friends!