I just picked up Mrs Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger at the library yesterday and have made time to read the first two stories. I admit, I was drawn to the book by the title including “Darcy” in it. Doesn’t take much to tease this Austen-addicted middle-aged momma. The second story is told through the eyes of a protected 11-year-old boy whose life changes by a chance introduction to big burly men who “look happy.”
After reading that story, I chanced into one of those conversations you have with a child or a parent that takes you by surprise. My daughter and I got talking about the course of my life and how I came to be exactly here, right now. Then I got more coffee and came out to check my facebook page and saw a story on “Drowning doesn’t look like drowning” posted in two places. (A fascinating read, which I highly recommend.)
All these things tie together into the question I think I’ll be asking myself as I pull weeds and swing sets this afternoon: “What does happy look like?”
If you’ve never seen it, would you recocognize it? Does it have a different countenance than, say, JOY? or CONTENTMENT?
In Lee’s story, the men are described thusly (one note, the 11-year-old notes the words that are on his vocabulary sheet–hence the use of “(word)” throughout the passage):
Jeffrey is interested in these men. He has never seen any men like them. They radiate a kind of vitality (word) that he finds enchanting. Though some appear to be a little younger, mostly they are great big middle-aged men with their hair still on. Men in the prime of life, Jeffrey thinks. This phrase just comes to him. They wear huge Hawaiian shirts in outrageous (word) colors and patterns. These shirts hang loosely over but don’t really hide their big tight bellies. They have baggy Bermuda shorts. They have white veiny muscled legs which end up in shiny loafers or maybe athletic shoes, new looking, as if they have just bought them for this trip.
But it is their manner that Jeffrey especially likes. These are brash (word), confident, public men, happy men. Their cheeks are red, their eyes snap and sparkle, they throw back their heads to laugh, they laugh so hard they have to wipe their eyes with their big white napkins.”
I won’t spoil the story by telling you WHO these men are, but the image of these robust and confident men will rest in my brain throughout the day, I think. Who are their female counterparts? and can I just say how much I love the phrase “with their hair still on.”
We never know how our lives affect people we don’t know; how our countenances affect those who only witness us. It is like that insurance company commercial where people see others doing things for others that seem like good manners to me but seem to be life-changing for the person in the next frame, who lifts down a box for a shorter person. But this public happiness had the effect of changing this one boy’s life. I wonder how many true stories there are that mimic this fictional one.
Challenge for the day: be happy in public. Go. And report back.