My husband’s grandmother grew up, and lived most of her life, in the Midwest. She lived a fairly hard life raising a large family and eking out a living in harsh North Dakota, yet she was also a joyful, loving woman with qualities we’d all like to emulate. She, too, was a writer and somewhere in her writing she talks about how, if one wants to be happy, it is necessary to find beauty in the small events that occur in our everyday lives.
I have been purposefully working on positive, productive attitudes and goals and, partly as a result, this past week has felt joyful to me, even though there have been challenges and issues to deal with. One day in particular left me feeling as if I would explode with joy, fulfillment and happiness. In a Facebook post I described that day as “almost magical”.
On this day I had a long list of errands to run; so long that I’d actually written them out on a Post-it Note so that I wouldn’t forget anything. My suburban was full, ready for stops at the drycleaners, the consignment store, Goodwill and the computer-recycling center. I’d gathered together coupons, grocery bags and shopping lists and I’d taken pictures of our front door handles so that I could order new ones at the hardware store. When I arrived at the store I was greeted by a woman about my age who offered to help me figure out which handles I needed to order. With the order complete, she said the handles would be available in about two weeks and asked if she could call me when they arrived. I told her I needed to give her an alternate phone number because I would likely be in Korea by then. She asked why I was going to Korea and I explained that I was taking my youngest son on a trip with our adoption agency. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Oh, you have adopted children?” She then leaned across the counter and said, in almost a whisper, “I placed a child for adoption many years ago.” A birth mother! Yes, I know there are birth mothers running around all over, but we rarely know that they’re birth mothers. For many of us who have adopted children, especially when we don’t have the opportunity to meet our children’s birth parents, there is a feeling, somewhat akin to awe with a little bit of thankfulness mixed in, toward these women who made a sacrifice that, as a result, brought us such joy. She went on to tell me that she’d been searching for her son, who is now 40, and that she’d located him but that he wasn’t yet ready to meet or talk to her. Being the open, chatty person I am, we went on to talk about adoption – her story, our stories. She expressed both grief and hope as she told me her story. Forty-five minutes later, as we said our goodbyes, she said, “I have your phone number on the order form. Would you like me to call you if I hear from him?”
I’d walked into that store ready to simply check off an item on my to-do list, but I walked out with a smile, some tears and a full heart. The unexpected connection between this woman and me was a little bit of beauty that helped me get through the rest of my errands, not with a feeling of chore and drudgery, but with joy and an eye to what else might hold another little bit of beauty. When I described my day as “almost magical”, a friend asked if I was in Disneyland and I’d responded, “No, just making my own magic.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was following Grandma’s advice – I’d found beauty in the everyday.