Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heroes, happiness, and holidays

Lately I've come to really appreciate a group of people who may best be categorized as Well Intentioned Strangers Who Talk Too Much.

Example 1: The woman who found me nursing Elliot on a couch in the As-Is section of IKEA when I was stranded there one night. She sat and talked to me for a long time, telling me her (unsolicited) life story and how her son, who also had some kind of disability (maybe autism?), was an actor. He was on a stretcher during a scene in E.R. She sprinkled the conversation with, "Your son is so special," and similar statements.

Example 2: The woman who found me nursing Corryn at the DMV the day we moved here (what is it with nursing that attracts these people?). She asked about the baby, and when she found out that Corryn was just 8 days old and that we had flown in to California just that morning, she told me in a deep, reassuring voice, "Don't worry. You're safe here."

Example 3: My cashier at Albertson's two weeks ago, who dispensed his life's wisdom in practiced one-liners, sang me a song about Boston, and joked around with a jocular bounce. He nicknamed me "Mom" on account of the baby food I was buying.

On one hand, these people make me blush. They're not fitting into my concept of social acceptability. On the other hand, I kind of want to be one of them.

Take example 3. He had once held aspirations of being an opera singer (something about following in his father's footsteps, I think?), and here he was, middle-aged and waning, a late-night Albertson's cashier. But as he told the man in line in front of me, "You gotta laugh about life, or else you cry."

They make me so happy. I'd been in a dark mood when I went to Albertson's that night, but I couldn't stop smiling when I left. I'm sure they have their unpleasant moments, but thank heavens for these people, spreading the love.

On a somewhat related note, Andy sent me a photograph on his mission that he said reminded him of me, and I was entirely flattered. It was one of those Relief-Society-esque wooden signs - the kind with "Happy *Specific Holiday*" in a cutesy typeface on the top and a few wooden icons of the holiday dangling down on curly wire. Totally tacky, and not my preferred kind of tacky, but this one was special. You've probably seen them before, but this was the first one I'd seen: this one said "Happy Everything," and had an icon for every major holiday hanging down.

I love this sign not for what it looks like, but for what it represents - its congenial laziness. I love that it says in one concise, Mary-and-Martha, White-vs.-Colored-Christmas-Tree type vignette, "I'm not going to bother keeping up with well-designed, seasonal decor, or arbitrary holiday timing, but I have a genuine sentiment of warmth and happiness for you, and spending time with you is higher on my priority list than making my house magazine-perfect before you visit. This is not a battle I pick."

And "Happy Everything," just says it all. Why should just one day a month deserve well-wishes? Why not all days? The holiday icons don't mean that it's specific only to holidays; they're just a way of symbolizing happiness spread over time.

Anyway, the Happy Everything sign and the kind strangers are the same kind of thing to me, both shameless and beautiful.

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