November 26th, 2008

you didn't ask me, but...

I'm going to tell you.
because somehow, at this moment, i think it's very important.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago...rather randomly..."what was the happiest time in your life?" the question came from a Japanese girl during a group get-together at an izakaya. everyone was speaking in Japanese. I was drinking my beer, listening for any words that I could pick out - and suddenly, all eyes turned on me. "What was the happiest time in your life?"

I thought for a moment. and a moment more. "Machimasu."
the conversation continued until I had it clenched in my head in absolutely confident grip. Yes, indeed, I had an answer.

"Ok," I said, "wait up -- Yoko asked me a question..." Perhaps if you are blond and American, you can interrupt the group. Maybe not...but as I had been doing it in my own culture for years, I didn't bother to concern myself with manners. Important questions needed to be answered.

Quiet. The table's attention was mine. I explained to Yoko in simple English (not simplified here):

The most happy time in my life were the days before I knew Santa Claus was a fake. I remember being 6 or 7 and going to bed so early on Christmas Eve that there was no way 8 hours of sleep could carry me past 4am. Mom and I had made Christmas cookies for the big guy. They were set out in the open so he could find them. We'd made them from scratch and painted them with colors created from canned milk mixed and food coloring. As excited as I was for Christmas morning, I always managed to fall asleep. (And soundly enough to miss all the reindeer hoof clatter that Mom claimed to heard during the night!)

But at some wee hour, when it was still dark, I'd wake up, turn over...and my heart would THUMP. It was Christmas! I would wonder if Santa was still in the living room. (He never was!) I'd tiptoe as best I could on squeaky boards to where the tree stood twinkling with mismatched rainbow Christmas lights. It was magic. that moment...right there- early Christmas morning from consciousness until the lie was revealed. That moment- full of magical lights, glistening tinsel and ornaments. Presents from Santa, parents, and elves. The smell of wrapping paper and bows and tape -if you can believe it - the smell of Christmas. and always perfectly quiet. Some years there was snow outside the window. Other years not. But not a sound at whatever early hour it was. I never stopped to wonder if my parents were awake and listening. It never mattered. It never crossed my mind. Because in that moment, I was so so so happy. Because magic existed. Because lights tinkled. Because anything was possible and there was not an ounce of sadness, regret, questioning, or doubt in my heart. That, my friend, was the happiest time in my life.

This question has become a recurring theme as of late. People keep asking me. And I keep asking other people. In fact, I was asked straight up again in my lesson today. and every time I tell the story, I go back to that moment.

And I wonder if somehow I'm looking for that again, of if I just needed to remember why I was so happy and not forget the reasons. After all, at 30, it's not possible to believe in magic and live without negative feelings. It's hardly possible to be ignorant enough to be truly happy in that same way. Or is it? I don't know. The heart of a child is near impossible to duplicate. But the memory is real and it makes me smile.
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