to be happy

You can't make paella without saffron, and I forgot to buy saffron when I did the grocery shopping on Monday.

The paella is non-negotiable, as it is in honor of our sole Spanish student in the ESL program, and the end-of-semester dinner is nine hours away. So 8:30 AM finds us in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

We shop quickly and successfully, gliding through the aisles. I'm a marvel of a parent. The three year old and the one year old stay in the cart, with only minor whining. We get to the checkout.

And then. Of course. For some reason they won't let me pay with the diaper, the pink Pull-Up, the half-bag of Cadbury eggs left over from Easter, the plastic cell phone, or even my keys. I've exhausted the contents of my green suede purse. My wallet is in my red leather school satchel. At home.

It's not a big deal. It's just that our four square miles of town rests a solid 25 minutes from any grocery store which might carry saffron.

I sigh. We rebuckle carseats and prepare for another hour in the car.

"What's wrong, mommy?" Rosie asks.

"I'm just feeling a little mad at myself for forgetting my purse," I admit. (I euphemize. A little mad: reasonable substitute for pissed off.)

"Don't be mad, mommy. God wants us to be happy."

"Does he?" I ask. I am really asking.


I tell her I will turn on some music to try to cheer myself up. I search for the CD with Adele and Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom. I tell her we will stop at the coffeeshop and get ourselves a little cinnamon treat to cheer ourselves up.

God wants us to be happy.


The last thing I want is to teach my daughter to believe in some kind of easy, name-it-claim-it happy faith.

No, the last thing I want is to teach her that she has to deny her emotions -- anger, frustration -- and pretend to be happy, because that's what God wants her to be.

And I don't think I've taught her that. I try to model expressing negative emotions in healthy ways. (Of course, I also seem to model medicating emotions with music and sugar-indulgence. Need to work on that.)


But I'm also not going to argue with her when she says that God wants us to be happy. I'm not going to say, "But what if God is more interested in us being holy than happy?"

She's not old enough to understand the ways in which being holy is the same as being happy. Maybe I'm not old enough to understand that either.

I believe God wants us to be happy. And I know why Rosie believes it. She heard it in the Bible, the one we've already read a half a dozen times.

From the beginning, God's children had been running from him and hiding. God knew his children could never be happy without him. But they couldn't get back to him by themselves -- they were lost, they didn't know the way back...

Jesus knew it was nearly time for him to leave the world and go back to God.
"I won't be with you long," he said. "You are going to be very sad. But God's Helper will come. And then you'll be filled up with a Forever Happiness that won't ever leave.
So don't be afraid.
You are my friends
and I love you.

We have reason to be happy. I just needed to be reminded.