I was on the front porch when you drove by and I waved, but in my mind, I was reliving a recent memory:
My wife and I are sitting near a large rock fireplace in a rustic, bistro-themed restaurant nestled among rolling acres of pastureland, grapevines and cornfields. My wife has temporarily left the table and I am trying to think of what one can say about happiness other than that, for a farm boy raised on the principle “things could be worse,” happiness comes as a major surprise, like slipping on sidewalk ice.
The restaurant, Harvest Grill, sits on the grounds of Shelton Vineyards, and both are located down the road from our hotel. As we neared the restaurant, we came over a rise and were wowed at the sight of thousands of black birds blanketing the surrounding fields, black-feathered bodies so thick you couldn’t distinguish highway from field and forcing me to make a sudden dead stop in the road. This almost never happens back at our town house in Statesville.
But we are in a rural paradise, and it’s all about live and let live.
My family were Original Free Will Baptist and believed in the imminence of the Rapture, when the Lord would return and we would rise to meet him in the air and ascend into paradise, but we were hard-working farm people and had no clear idea of paradise. It certainly didn’t resemble cornfields and hog pens. We knew that for sure.
Yet here I sit, surrounded by farms and fields, feeling happy and paradisiacal.
What I like is that my wife made all this happen — the trip, the hotel accommodations, the dinner reservations — as a birthday gift to me. This happiness is all her doing.
You realize that to be cared for by someone is a nice feeling.
I was a government administrator for 30 years, and it’s nice to have the faux-cherrywood desk, but then you realize you are the focal point of budget issues, political skirmishes, pointless meetings, and that everybody’s complaints, including their lower-back pain and eczema, are due to you, the Guy in Charge, and you retire and shake the mayor’s hand and then comes this wonderful surprise — your wife wants you to be happy.
Happiness is a simple matter for a farm boy. You go to a nice restaurant knowing you don’t have to feed livestock the next morning, and that does it. The sudden shock of pleasure drives other stuff from your mind — the coronavirus, presidential impeachment, the charred continent of Australia — your mind clears and suddenly, you’re happy.
Our waitress offers us an after-dinner espresso, but concentrated caffeine would make my nervous system ring like a doorbell and I might start singing “All You Need Is Love,” and people would raise their heads, roll their eyes and look away. So, we ask for decaf coffee and cheesecake. No singing.
I’m home now, content and happy though as a Baptist farm boy I know this can change, that tomorrow I could be crossing a street, clutch my chest, fall, and strangers would call 911 and people with electrical pads would discharge enough wattage into my chest to light up a shrimp boat. But that’s OK.
That evening my troubles, like those birds on the highway, arose as one, circled and flew away, leaving me to proceed down a clear country road into a weekend of good moments, and later return home completely recharged with happiness.
The birthday weekend was great.
Next time you see me, ask, and I’ll tell you more about it.