Cafe Hitch-hike


The happiness jar

My 9-year old niece called, and her voice is changing. It doesn't sound so little kid-like. I also noticed in video chats she's starting to stretch. Her legs and torso are getting leaner. It's easy to see because she wears leggings and hoodies. Her cheeky face is starting to be thinned out by her jaw and a bigger smile.

Her thick, brown hair is still bushy and very wavy, almost curling at times. We have similar hair although mine is a darker, and when I got mine cut in a bob last summer, it almost looked like hers. The last time I had seen her, I put barrettes in her hair above her face because I'm very familiar with that wild kind of hair, and she liked it! Our conversations are becoming longer and more focused, and I noticed subtle changes in her vocabulary, too. It delights me to watch her grow up.

One time, she hit me up on video chat and her best friend Abby was visiting. I've met Abby and also their other friend Melissa. The funny thing about that chat was they were watching YouTube videos, and their favorite song came up (it was some cheezy singer from a children's TV show), and after he sang a verse, the girls shrieked in glee at the same time, just like teenyboppers at a concert. The spontaneity and infectiousness of that cracked me up! I could see them going to shows 10 years from now doing the same thing, and I had a cheerful laugh.

Her dad just had a birthday (he turned 30, hahahah, she said), and her mom (my sis Princ) has a birthday soon. It's also Valentine's Day soon, and I suggested she make cards for them. About a hour later, she sent me a picture of a big heart with shade, and it had my name on it!

Oh, yeah, and I talked with her dad one time during a video chat. He was interested in my place (it's going on 2 years since I've been here), and I was able to show him the work that went into it. Although he has a degree in finance and comes from a business family, he decided office life wasn't for him and has been a construction foreman for most of his career. My niece's dad is pretty chill and always has been easy to talk to.

I got what initially appeared to be a strange e-mail and the person claimed to be my former English Comp. professor from my hometown. I was suspicious because the writing was very choppy (unusual for an English teacher), yet they tossed in a couple of interesting details. The first was we went to England in 1998 on a study abroad program, but the other was she mentioned the name of a classmate who accompanied us on an excursion we had that time. As it turned out, it was Sharon after all!

Sharon, who's Sharon? She's one of those amazingly beautiful souls I've gotten to meet over time. She was an excellent instructor who encouraged me to do more with my writing and schooling at the end of the semester. It wasn't lost on me that 6 years later, she, Bea (another lovely instructor I worked with on a committee while a student), and Wendy (another instructor from the college) all attended the study abroad trip at the end of my undergrad college program. It was beautiful that the person who knew me at the beginning was there as I was ready to step off into the unknown.

Towards the end of our time in England, Sharon, Wendy, and another then-middle aged woman gave me some unsolicited advice over a bland dinner in our dorm basement cafeteria. They suggested to not settle down right away and instead, travel, go to grad school, and find an excellent mentor to study under (we had an amazing guest lecturer that day, and they told me to go to her). These women married quite young and started their families soon after in the 1960s or 70s. In my reply to Sharon, I told her I took their advice.

It was one of those instances where I got a pingback from people who believed in me and what I was able to do. Of course, I was so glad that Sharon got back in touch. It was really something that she did. I can't help but wonder where she got the notion to get back in touch. She's taught hundreds of students over her career. She said I was a good writer and a serious student, and she was aware that I was going to college on my own. I'll also add she told me, "you've gotta work!" She was real about it, too.

I distinctly remember writing short story about multigenerational domestic violence in her class, and it was a hard thing to write about. Although it was loosely based on a true story (what I knew about my step-father's early life and some of the interactions he had with my mother), the words and images of the story slowly came to me. I had to refine the draft and I was terrified that Sharon would hate the story (she's definitely for female empowerment), but I just had to. As it turned out, she enjoyed the story and that was when she encouraged me to continue with writing and with school.

While so many interesting things are happening within and without, well... things like these are so reassuring, if not soothing. They're definitely things I'll include in my 'happiness' jar, something that includes events, people and things that move my heart.

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