Little Big

I started waiting tables again. It’s been fifteen years. I thought it was ten at first because, truly, that number seemed round and ridiculous enough but, nice try, AmandaIt’s fifteen. After drinking two mimosas at a local brunch spot, my math starts to get fuzzy and I’m prone to blurting out impulsive questions like, “Are you hiring?” Then, a week later I find myself taking drink orders and trying to figure out how I managed to reboot 2003.

I called my sister:

“Is this okay? Am I going backward? Tell me how to feel about this.” She said the perfect thing. I can’t remember it, can’t reproduce it, but it made me relax completely.

I’m happy. I get to spend time with good people from my past. I’m surrounded by marvelous food and drinks at one of the top new restaurants in my city. It’s modest and cozy. The clientele is charming. It’s easy (so far). I go home at night with good money in my pocket, and spend days with my baby, while she’s still little. I’m not hunched over my laptop, wrecked with freelance deadlines, burning eyes, and an aching spine. I have time to tinker with side projects, but no urgency to make them profitable. Becuase, for the record, I’m not working in a restaurant for the nostalgia alone.

There’s this book I like, and the author describes a room with a framed cross stitch that says, “The things that make us happy make us wise.”

I think of that line often. (Leave it to me to memorialize a fictional prop.) I don’t really get it, to be honest. Or at least, the meaning is fluid to me. It changes over the years. This week I’ve been trying to remember other things that make me happy, especially things that used to make me happy that I’d forgotten. It’s a hard practice, winnowing out things that give me joy versus the things I thought would…or should. Stuff the screens told me to want. Lives that stories told me to chase.

That cross stitch pops up early in the book. A boy is beginning a journey and kind strangers take him in for the night. There’s thoughtful conversation and good food. Then, just as he’s falling asleep on the couch, he sees those words stitched onto fabric. And he smiles.

Being able to acknowledge what brings us pure happinessreally accept it without judgment or influence, and then grab it, hold onto itmaybe that is the smartest fucking thing any of us can do.