When You’re Happy and You Show It

One of my favorite lunch spots is a little cafe across the Potomac River in a nearby West Virginia college town. The fare is reliably good and the outdoor patio is shaded and lovely. Think blooming flowers, a stream running through a stone-lined channel, and hand-hewn stone walkways and steps. (And a nice dessert menu is always a plus.)

I met an old friend there for a meal earlier this week, and not two minutes after she’d sat down, our waiter, a serious, substantial, bearded young fellow, spilled a glass of water all over the table. Fortunately, the table was one of those iron mesh, heavy items of furniture that will do structural damage if it’s ever hurled from a trebuchet. We got past that, and the fellow came back around to take our orders.

He didn’t immediately grasp what “half-sweet iced tea,” was. He forgot to offer straws. He wrote out on his little pad–word for word–each item we ordered. This guy was determined to bring to the job every iota of focus and dedication he possessed.

I found him delightful. He was trying so hard, and getting the challenges of a demanding and largely thankless job mostly right. (And yes, I tipped accordingly.)

My friend and I enjoyed our meal, solved the problems of the universe, splurged on ice cream for dessert, and generally had a good chin wag. Our waiter stood patiently by the table waiting to settle up, immediately after passing us the check. Right by the table, eyes front, as if he expected to be called upon to recite Browning’s Incident of the French Camp from memory.

Not long before we left, a couple of our waiter’s friends took a table a few yards across the patio from us. How did we divine that these were his friends? Because when he beheld the occupants of that table, he leaped–went spontaneously airborne–from the top of a flight of stone steps to land flat-footed next to their table. A round of manly-man greetings ensued, as well as some obligatory bro-bro about beer, food, and the upcoming weekend.

That leap was gorgeous, not in a balletic sense (rather the opposite), but for the joie de vivre, spontaneity, and sheer glee it conveyed. I wanted to clap, I wanted to tell him to do it again, I wanted to… well, I’m blogging about it, because that one act of unselfconscious saltation was so wonderful to behold. A small thing, maybe, but for that otherwise serious young man to be so exuberantly glad to see his friends and to show it was enormously human.

Have you encountered spontaneous expressions of joy in your travels? Have you ever felt the inclination to express any? I’ll add three commenters to my Lady Violet Pays a Call ARC list (even though the title is already on sale in the web store).


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16 comments on “When You’re Happy and You Show It

    • Greetings, Hazel! You not only found the books, you found the blog! Lovely to have you join us here, and thanks for the kind words about the stories. You keep readiing them and I will keep ’em coming!

  1. I’ve mentioned before, may eldest son has autism. He’s also one of the most honest people you’ll ever meet. When he’s happy, you know it. As well, when he’s UNHAPPY, you’ll know it too.

    Earlier in the spring, just as things were warming up here in the Midwest, I opened the patio door to sweep the patio and get the chairs and table and lounge chairs all set up. R scooted right past me, with a BIG SMILE on his face, giggling he was so happy. I swept and moved furniture around and he helped, if only to get things organized for him to sit out for a bit. He had the most glorious smile that day—one of those smiles I will never forget. 🙂

    Just today, a BEAUTIFUL SUMMER DAY here in the ‘burbs of Chicago, he was again so purely happy. We had dinner outside–just burgers–but he was delighted.

    Have a beautiful week, Grace!

    • Sounds like he and I share a sensitivity to weather. The summer heat and humidity just grind me down, but a crisp, sunny fall day or a lovely spring day and I AM INVINCIBLE. (Well, smiling, anyway.)

  2. Our dog has daily moments of unmitigated joy. I don’t know if they’re spontaneous, but she has great capacity for them. We’re certainly happier for them!

    • An image I should have posted with this little essay is Snoopy doing the happy dance, but it’s probably copyrighted. I posted last week about what a tonic Augustus the Cat is for my mood, and one the sights that always makes me smile a great big old horsie having a fine roll in the dirt.

  3. I’m still bouncing around the house in glee because a friend arranged for me to attend a coveted online conference I can’t afford in return for my acting as a moderator. (Insert a mental image here of the largest, most ungainly draft horse of your acquaintance attempting the graceful Lipizzaner movements of the airs above the ground & you’ll get the general vision of my gambols.)

    I received profuse outpourings of joy just yesterday when one of my favorite neighbors (who is regrettably moving) tentatively approached me to ask if they can store a few overflow boxes in my garage until they can pick them up so as to have their house emptied completely on the fast approaching date agreed in their sales contract. I not only agreed, I told her to let her husband know I’d leave my car outside so they could have the whole bay, thus relieving the pressure to cram every last thing into their POD & potentially crush something important. I thought she’d pass out in front of me from sheer relief before lighting up like a sun.

  4. I love to see spontaneous joy in my best friend’s granddaughter as she discovers the world. Stomping in puddles, finding a worm, all those fun first time delights that children experience. They are usually accompanied by a squeal and then a giggle. So fun!

  5. I already have a copy of Lady Violet Pays a Call, but your topic is a lovely one, especially in light of the general feeling of gloom so many of us are experiencing. Two events come to my mind, and both involve my kids. The first time, when my daughters were about six and eight, we told them we had to clean the house, etc., because one of my husband’s work colleagues was coming to town and would be staying with us. We even dragged them to the airport with us to pick up said colleague, but instead it was their beloved auntie who walked into the arrivals area. Their squeals were loud enough to hear miles away. The second event was similar: my son was eight and my husband was working overseas. He came home for a short stay, and everyone except my son knew he was coming. His surprise and joy when my husband walked through the door was something I wish we could bottle and sell – we’d be millionaires!

  6. When we bought my husband’s Volvo many years ago, we let my son (who is a real car nut) drive it as my husband & I sat in the back seat. Exploring the dashboard before taking off, he found a button and he wondered what it was for. Pressing it made the headrests in the back seat flop down onto our heads (no injuries!). I had never before or since seen my son laugh so hard, literal tears rolling down his face. His then girlfriend, now wife, was actually appalled on our behalf, as he took so much pleasure in this unexpected result. Of course, being the kind of family who enjoys a hearty laugh, my husband and I joined in. We still talk about the day that our usually too serious son burst into unrivaled mirth. Priceless!

  7. I’ve had two nights of good sleep so my attitude is improved. We have a very nervous dog who has begun sleeping with us and she is a bed hog. I’ve finally managed to persuade her to sleep near the foot of the bed between me and my husband so I am happier. My husband is not. She is lean and long legged – not a small dog. Right now Lucy is pacing around me and intermittently pawing at my legs.

    Two nights decent sleep in a row is a true blessing.

    Spontaneous joy – I see something beautiful every time I step outside – sky and earth. I’ve always loved insignificant flowers – the tiny flowers that grow in your yard. The plants may be an inch high. I’ve never been a fan of one-species lawns. I like the clover and the dandelions and all the variety.

  8. At the beginning of March 2020 my daughter and I travelled to visit a university at the top of her list. We were part of the last tour they gave as the school was starting to shut down for covid. The delight and bouncing and “vibing” going on was fun to watch. Shortly after we returned she was schooling remotely for the remainder of junior year and did not return for classes in the building before graduation. I was glad she had had a happy tour experience (so many joyful exclamations!) and felt good with her choice to attend that university, especially since she missed out on so many of the usual experiences by being in quarantine. She is there now and it turned out to be a good fit.

  9. One of my kitties got so excited to see a catnip toy I had put away for a few months. This must be one of his favorite toys because he wouldn’t take his claws off of it no matter what I did.
    It was sooooo fun to see his little catnip happy face!! 😀

  10. Excellent time to ask me that question! I just got back from a few days with my daughter and her brand new daughter . You know how you remember that sense of wonder when you hold your new baby and it is so profound you figure it is etched into your consciousness for all time? Well watching my daughter cuddle and nurse her daughter (1 week old) took my breath away, I had NOT really truly remember! Then (thank heavens!!) the parents figured out how handy it was to have an extra pair of hands around in order to free up their own. What a direct hit, hold that tiny baby in my arms. We sat, we walked, we sang/listened. What a gift to reawaken those feelings and to witness the daughter and son-in-law experiencing the whole thing for the first time. Awesome.

    Note: not one cute anecdote (of which there are 500) added to this post to make it tediously long. You are all welcome.

  11. Visiting my best friend on a hot and sunny day last year has a memory of laughter and tears of great magnitude that will be with me for the rest of my life.Shirley was battling cancer that was destroying her body,she did not have long but her humour refused to fade. We had agreed that morning when I came to visit and help I would stop at a cafe not far from her home and collect her favourite pudding.Apple pie and custard.They packed it up well to keep it warm.I had a ten minute walk.On arrival I greeted her and then went straight to the kitchen to dish up. “Oh dear”the lid had come off the custard pot and the custard was at the bottom of the bag.I called to Shirley and asked if she had a ladle to scoop the escaped custard out of the bag onto her portion of pie.She laughed so much and replied it’s not going to kill me is it!!!!.Just pour it out and let’s enjoy.Which we certainly did.A moment I will treasure of a true friend lost to cancer.