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  • Kelly Marks

Surprise Joy

The days are swimming by so fast that I have a 5 minute conversation with myself each morning as I open my eyes. “Is it Friday or Monday? What day is it?” I’m not looking for sympathy, and I’m not having a pity party (although I may be having a panic attack.) This tends to happen at the end of summer each year, but this year there have just been a couple of big things added on top of the usual craziness. It’s really easy for things to snowball and for me to get focused on how much there is to be done and how little time to get it all accomplished.


When things are this crazy I tend to have a million lists going. General to-do lists, things not to forget to tell Paul or Madi, things to check on, lists for work, groceries, social obligations, meetings, etc. In the midst of all these items on all of my lists, something stopped it all dead in its tracks. Even if it was only for a minute, it was enough to make me recalibrate.


Madi and I were driving up I-85. We were going to my folks’ house to celebrate their birthdays. She and I were comparing notes about how stressful things are right now, and I noticed there was a van pulled off on the side of the road. Something about it seemed familiar but in a way that maybe I had seen it in a dream or something.


Madi was driving so as we passed, I turned in my seat to get a good look at it. It was literally the Mystery Van from Scooby Doo. It was a perfect replica of the one from the show. How fun!! What a surprise.


After I got over my astonishment, I added it to another list of mine immediately. I keep a list of truly cool and very unusual things I have seen. The list is very short, but it should be. It has to be rare and bring with it complete and unadulterated joy or surprise.


The event that started the list was several years ago. I was driving down Providence Road and in a hurry to get somewhere I can’t even remember now. Coming toward me from the opposite direction was a motorcycle with a sidecar. That was unusual in itself, but in the sidecar was a little boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old. He had both hands in the air, absolute glee on his face. He was having the time of his life. It’s hard to see that kind of joy and not be affected.


Another time I was once again going down Providence Road. At a corner where a beautiful family home once stood, there was now a pile of rubble heaped beside a crane. Directly in front of that, sitting on the lawn, was a baby grand piano with the top lifted as if it were waiting to be part of a concert. A reminder of the life that had once been lived in that place which was now waiting to be turned into condos in an ever practical mode of providing mass housing. It wasn’t as joyful as the first event but odd enough to stop me in my tracks.


The last item on my list might be the quirkiest. I was picking up a bouquet of balloons from a party store, and as I walked out the door and prepared to cross the parking lot to get to my car, a nun in full habit, with her black and white wimple, rode a bicycle in front of me. It could’ve been from a movie.


There is a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kiffer. She began in the 6th grade writing a list of things that made her happy. What a testament to paying attention and seeing the glass half-full.


I’ve come to realize that none of us can be that positive person 100% of the time, and sometimes we need to readjust and find some positivity in the midst of the stress. Maybe redirect our focus. As Shaggy would say, “Zoinks, I may have just solved the mystery.”





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