If I ever forget what happy looks like, please take me to the international arrivals gate at the airport. I won't be like Hugh Grant in Love Actually looking for evidence that love is all around.
Take me to the airport because the people at the airport think that happy is getting teary when a certain flight appears in the customs list. The people in the airport think happy is having someone run to greet you who is so excited that they run out of their own red shoe. The people at the airport think that happy is stopping every few yards to kiss each other and look at each other and then hurry, hurry, hurry to the car.
If I ever forget what happy is, take me to the airport so I can remember that the first greeting after a military homecoming is not happy. That first greeting after months and months apart is elation. It is euphoria. It is homecoming.
That is not happy. Happy is something else.
Happy lasts longer. Happy goes deeper.
I see it sometimes when I’m reading through my Facebook feed. The first wave of pictures of a soldier or Marine or sailor or Coastie or airman surrounded by the family after deployment always make me smile. I likelikelike those pictures because they are milestones of “We made it!”
I see the happy start a couple of weeks later in a posted picture of a Marine fast asleep with a tiny baby nestled on his chest. The happy starts with a message about a walk taken together at sunset or a dad putting his boys to bed.
I am struck by how often these posts are followed with some kind of message of gratitude. These wives of soldiers and sailors write about how grateful they are to have their husbands home. The rise and fall of his chest. His words in her ear. His presence at home-- at last at home—are such a relief.
These Facebook friends beg the rest of us to remember what we have with our Marines and our Coasties and our airmen. They urge us to remember how easily it can all be lost and to be, in this moment, happy.
I think that the awareness of our happiness—not the being happy, but the fully tuned awareness of happy—is what everyday life takes from us. It is one of the things that homecoming gives back if we are watching for it. If we are paying attention.
So if I ever forget what happy looks like again, remind me that I, too, have had my days after homecoming. Remind me that happy is standing at my own kitchen counter with the sun streaming across my hands and cracking two eggs into the egg poacher instead of one. Remind me that happy is having someone ask if I want coffee with breakfast. Remind me that happy is heading outside holding hands talking about how to rearrange the barn so the boys don’t scrape the car with their lacrosse sticks.
If I ever forget what happy looks like, remind me that happy is that little sigh that comes out of a sixth grader when he climbs between both parents for a snuggle. Remind me that happy is the first trip to Target to buy new toothbrushes and clean white tshirts and some Miller 64 for a guy who hasn't had a beer or Snuggle-scented laundry in months.
If I ever forget what happy looks like, remind me that happy is dragging out of bed to get my day started and having this one guy grab my hand and pull me back under the covers.
Soon enough I won’t notice these things anymore. Soon enough these everyday happinesses will happen so often they will be swallowed into the ordinary. But this time I want to note my happinesses and hold them close. I want to be ready the next time I get one of those messages of gratitude from a homecoming family so I never forget what happy looks like ever again.