I have been blessed. I have been happy for long stretches in different parts of my life. When I think about happy days, lots come to mind.
The happiest came when my boys were very small. I remember days and days when my first kid did happy all day long. I remember that it was a revelation that happy was not just something that happened to people (like good luck or chicken pox): it was something that could engage all one's attention and action. Toddlers do happy with all their minds and bodies and giggles.
The next time that bubbles to the surface is quite different. Many of us remember our undergraduate university days with affection. My time at Trent was a period of such rapid and joyful awakening to both a wide, wide world and a deeper self. I chose Trent because it had a great English department, a great record for producing excellence in the arts (not just starting with it as many programs still do), and small classes where people learned by talking to each other. I chose it with head and heart.
And, it might be that I have a vague memory of encountering some handsome, gentle young men who were students at Trent. That wasn't a deciding factor, but it was a nice fringe benefit.
I was right on all counts. Trent was an amazing place and I was amazed and happy and passionate and growing all the time I was there. A few of my memories are tough (a friend died while we were there) and some are anxious (I pushed myself hard to excel) but most are of having lots and lots of time to talk and listen and laugh. I remember walks under lamplight in magical snowfalls, and evenings by the fireplace (we had fireplaces in classrooms where we could gather on the weekends) and professors who were so very present with us.
But that's not how it started.
It started with volunteers whisking my boxes and suitcases up to a bare and ugly little room. It started with realizing that men and women would share just one bathroom (including the shower area). It started with my little sister (only 4 years old) crying and heartbroken because it was so wrong to leave me behind. It started with the awkward conversations you have with new people at a new place, and with more than a few tears of my own, alone in my room late at night.
Only one other person from my high school (which had the same population as Trent at the time) came to Trent. I had no friends when I started. I had to leave the baby sister I adored and all the things I took for granted. It was natural and normal and in the way of natural and normal things, it hurt from time to time.
And it was the beginning of a time in my life when I became more myself than ever before, when I learned not only about the world, but about me. It was a time when I was happy. It was normal and natural and then it became extraordinary.