Waiting to leave everything she knew for the second time, an 11-year-old sat on a tiny plane at Logan Airport and cried on her mother’s shoulder. “Why did you have to leave Boston, Mom? “, she said softly in between sobs. “We had a perfect life. We had a good life”, she pleaded as she looked at me through the tears.
How can you convince an 11-year-old that you weren’t really happy-deep down inside. How do you convince yourself? At what point do you become selfish in the quest to be happy? What is happiness anyway?
True. Our life in Boston was good. In the 11 years of her life, she lived in the same white house on a dead-end street with lots and lots of kids to play with. She walked to school, past the pond, then biked to school, when she got older and was able to ride in a little caravan with friends. She had a trampoline in the back yard, an excellent hill for sledding on the street and went to a neighbor’s house for popsicles and swimming We picked up a small cheese pizza from Tino each week and she shared her report card with him and made crosses for him for Easter. She was the life of the school dances and the soccer field. She had close friends from different cultural groups and they spent time swapping stories that would make any person smile and hope that they stay friends for life.
True. Our life in Boston was good. In the 11 years of her life, I lived in the same white house on a dead-end street for which I happily worked two jobs to keep up along with single-handedly fixing the toilet, trimming branches, cutting grass and monitoring the actions of the sump pump. When I walked her to school, I had to jog or speed-walk back home only to have to rush to work only to inevitably arrive late and have to bear the burden of finding a seat at the huge table when all I wanted to do was pee and wipe the sweat from under my bra. I lived on a street with white, 2 parent families who huddled in groups swapping stories about home remodeling, rarely including me and always forgetting to tell me when the neighborhood kids were walking to school; setting me up for the mad dash at 7:15 to get her backpack and lunch ready so that she could be a part of the neighborhood contingent for Walk to School Wednesdays. I had a big back yard, with trampoline and swing set which often meant that I had to choose between doing something important inside (cooking, cleaning, writing) and supervising children. Happily, I usually chose to hang outside with the kids while I tended my garden or played with the dog, Bella. I was the coach and she was the soccer player.I pursued interests and hobbies with gusto. I laughed a lot. Smiled easily. Looking down on her in that tiny plane I thought, “Yes, we did have a good life. I was happy.”
But I was unfulfilled. So maybe, I wasn’t happy? Does everyone get to be happy or is that just a cute thing to say: “I’m happy” and was there enough happiness to leave our good and perfect life for something that is at this point is not as good or perfect.