Did you ever notice that there are some people who have these incredible memories? They remember names, faces, dates, and things like how much they paid for their first car. Those people amaze me, and in truth I'm kind of envious of them for having that treasure trove of memories in their brains.
Over the years I've learned to accept the fact that my memory is pretty bad -- with the exception of those things that I remember like they were yesterday. Like family vacations to Cape May every summer -- and the amazing smell when you walked off the boardwalk into Morrow's Nut House. Or the night I met my husband at The Cask in Boston. Or the time I tripped going up onto the stage to be the magician's assistance at the Knights of Columbus Family Party.
Incredibly vivid memories -- every one of them. But there is one memory I have that I truly believe was a defining moment in my life.
It was spring of my senior year of college, and I was struggling with the "big question" about what I was supposed to do with my life. One of my roommates (and best friend), Michelle and I, decided to go to my parents' house one Sunday afternoon -- probably to do laundry. It was one of the first nice days of spring, and we were sitting in the driveway at my parents' house talking about life and trying to find the answer to the "big question."
The little neighbor girl (whose name I don't remember, so we'll just call her Sarah) was out playing in her yard with her younger brother, Nicholas. Sarah may have been 4 or 5 years old -- and when she saw us in the driveway, she came skipping over to us all giggly and grinning. Nicholas toddled along behind with sticky fingers, a runny little nose (you know the kind that makes bubbles when you breathe) and an enormous one-year old grin. You could tell he just adored his sister as he teetered behind her trying to keep his balance.
"Hello! What's you're name?" Sarah asked when she got to our driveway. Nicholas just grinned and came over and climbed into my lap.
Michelle and I introduced ourselves, then proceeded to talk to Sarah about all the things that a 5-year old wants to talk about -- dolls, butterflies, clouds, pigtails, pierced ears and the like. Nicholas just kept grinning and occasionally would reach up and touch my nose with his filthy little fingers.
All of the sudden, Sarah just stopped talking, and she stood up and looked at her brother, then she looked at us and said, "Nicholas is a cutie pie, and I just wanna hug him." And she did, right there and then she hugged her brother, and the two of them giggled like crazy.
It wasn't a minute later that she said goodbye and took off back to her yard, and Nicholas tried to keep up behind her.
Michelle and I sat in the driveway laughing about how adorable the two of them were. They didn't have a care in the world, and the most important thing was just being together, making friends and being happy.
"You know, Lol*, " Michelle said to me, "That's what it's all about. Right there -- that's the secret to life -- just be happy."
We sat silently in the driveway for a few minutes and digested the words -- both of us realizing that plain and simple truth.
The ride back to Muhlenberg that night was an easy one. All the stress of trying to answer "the big question" was gone, and we just laughed each time one of us would mimic little Sarah's words, "Nicholas is a cutie pie, and I just wanna hug him."
I may still be trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but fortunately Nicholas and Sarah taught us the best philosophy of life -- just be happy.
*Note: Lol is a nickname I've had since I was a child. My nieces & nephews call me Lolly...and someday I hope my grandkids will call me Lolly and my husband Pop. The nickname came long before LOL meant Laugh Out Loud...but I'm pretty pleased with that acronym. :)