The Rockwood Files: Everyday joy

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Last night I met my friend Shannon for dinner at a restaurant we’ve been to so often over the past 12 years that we probably know the menu better than the manager. We ordered two iced teas and then asked our server to tell us about the soup of the day.

Waiter: “It’s steak soup today,” he said.

In perfect unison, Shannon and I squealed and celebrated: “Woohoooo!”

Me: “That’s our favorite! We’ll have two bowls.”

Waiter: (Looking surprised by the sudden celebration.) “Um…okay.” (Walks away from table with crazy soup ladies.)

Me: “Shannon, do you realize we both just woohoooed over a bowl of soup? I think this means we’re ancient now. We reacted to soup the way teenage girls react to their favorite boy band.”

Her: “You’re right. We did just woohooo soup. But in our defense, it’s good soup and they don’t offer it that often.”

Me: “That’s true. Let’s never speak of this to anyone.”

Her: “Okay… or you could write it down for your next column.”

Me: “Even better idea.”

A few moments later, our waiter delivered two bowls of soup to our table and then quickly backed away in case we started turning middle-age cartwheels. We didn’t, mostly because we were busy eating soup.

The soup story reminded me of a quote I ran across recently from a French poet named Charles Baudelaire who lived during the 1800s. Charles once wrote that we should “discover day-to-day excitement.” Baudelaire had a reputation as a guy who never met a party he didn’t like, so I’m not certain what kind of excitement he was referencing in that quote. But the fact that he called it “day-to-day excitement” makes me believe he was also a man who appreciated a good soup.

As I get deeper into my 40s, I’m realizing more and more how closely connected my happiness level is to my ability to recognize and appreciate everyday joy. Big moments like major achievements, exciting trips or lavish gifts can be wonderful, but it’s dangerous to make your happiness level dependent on them. They don’t come around that often. Even if they did, the emotional high they bring cools off faster than a bowl of steak soup.

That’s why the little things are so much more dependable and sustaining.

One more example: Last Christmas I found this great Scrabble board for Tom at a discount store. He’d always wanted the fancy kind that comes with a built-in Lazy Susan turntable that allows you to rotate the board so the words are facing you during your turn. The one I found also has a drawer that stores the bag of letter tiles, a timer, the letter trays and a scorebook. And much to my delight, it also features a grid of raised lines which keeps the letter tiles perfectly aligned – something that only those of us with a tendency toward compulsive straightening can appreciate.

Tom was thrilled when he opened the gift, and we’ve left it out on our kitchen table ever since then. We often play a round of Scrabble on the weekends while the kitchen television plays an old movie in the background. The games have become intense because we’re evenly matched. I’m good at thinking up words, but Tom is much better at strategies for scoring the most points. Most of the time, the games come down to the wire.

But last weekend, the stars and letter tiles aligned just right, and I got three words in a row that banked big points: “Dazed” on a double-word score. “Banjo” with a triple-letter score on the “j.” And the word “quiet” on not only a double-letter spot for the “q,” but also a coveted triple-word score for the whole thing.

My score pulled so far ahead of his that he suggested we call it a “win” for me and start a new game so he’d have a fighting chance. I graciously agreed. But ever since then I’ve been reminiscing: “Remember that time I got three words in a row that made you want to quit the game and start over? Ahhh… that was a good time.”

See what I mean? Everyday joy. Day-to-day excitement. We must discover and delight in it every chance we get. Pass the soup.