Simple Things That Make Me Happy

I feel like my posts tend to alternate between longing (teetering on whiney) and dorky ideas.  I don’t do this on purpose, but maybe writing down things that bother me are effective enough that the following day I can look past them, at least temporarily, to see the beauty and pleasure in other things.

I sat here smiling as my pug and my husband snore next to me; (I mean, no honey, you don’t snore). I thought about how lucky I am to find joy in simple things. In no particular order, these are things that make me happy.  I welcome what simple things make you happy; there is always room to add to the list.

  • Tea, in a teacup with saucer and perfectly sweetened.  On a regular day, I drink tea unsweetened at work, just throwing a tea bag into the cleanest mug I have within reach.  (It just feels that way, don’t worry, I wash them.)  I’ve tried to perfect a perfect pot of tea; I can’t seem to do it like my Mom does, and so I make mine by the cup.  I go in phases with what type I’m in the mood for and lately rooibos wins.  Still, I wish I gave myself a moment to sit down and absorb just a moment of sunlight and a few minutes to drink tea each morning.  At the very least, I take a moment to think about the little sayings on my tea bags.  I started to save them at my desk because they are generally uplifting and every corporate cubicle can use random positivity.  Geez, now I sound like a hoarding Pollyanna.
  • Hot buttered toast and dipping it in hot chocolate.  Mmm.  I think I’m hungry.  Maybe I’m missing my Mom.  She’d make this for me when I was little, because her Mom did the same.  It came up in conversation before she passed that my Great-Grandmom used to get this when she was a kid from her Mom too.  I suppose it’s a traditional treat then.  The hot chocolate must be hot and so must the bread, and it should be white bread.  If you’re going to do this, you might as well go all out and use the soft white bread.  One day without wheat bread won’t kill you, but it might be the real butter that I suggest you use.  I know I’ve missed the boat to suggest this part, but it is particularly good on a colder morning. We still have some of these left.

Early morning. Though I have my favorites, Oscar prefers oatmeal.

  • Hanging clothes on the line.  Laundry chores are annoying but necessary.  I think this makes me happy because it has to be a beautiful day for this chore to be feasible, and that itself is a reason to smile. There is just something calming about pinning sheets up in a gentle breeze on a warm and sunny day.  Just don’t step in dog poo while you trek through the yard, it certainly takes away from the calming experience. Continue reading
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Giving Life to Distant Ancestors

There is a picture that has moved from basement to garage and back again, and from rowhome to rowhome in Philadelphia.  It is a picture of a family, joined together in the family bakery in the late 1910’s.  I first saw this picture as a child and it was thought to be lost for the years since.  I’ve managed to scan it and take in the details amongst the water stains and torn paper.  My great-great-grandmother is in the picture.  It was taken in her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Michael’s bakery.  My great-grandma is there too, as a little girl.  More than just a photo, I recently learned it was a Baptism celebration for Elizabeth and Michael’s son, Nicholas.

I never met these bakery owners.  But I know they are the reason my great-great-grandparents chose Philadelphia when leaving Europe.  They made a home there and found employment doing odd jobs in the bakery.

More than finding dates and places of birth, I spend much of my time doing ancestry research, trying to put together a puzzle in my mind, trying to piece together what this person was like.  What kind of struggles did they go through?  What did they look like?  I was able to recently find a picture of Elizabeth and Michael recently, along with some records and pieces that give me an idea of who they were.  They came from Hungary, single, young and poor.  Michael was tall with dark hair and “deep blue” eyes.  He labelled himself a self-employed baker when he stepped on the shore of New York, at the age of 19.  He came from Hungary but spoke German.  Had several children, became a Naturalized citizen right off the ship, battled pneumonia in 1918 and had the highest appraised house on his block by the time he was 40.  By this time he filled out his draft card for World War II, he was gray, but still slender and still baking.  He spent the last sixteen years a widower.  He lived to 93, the year before I was born.  It makes the connection feel closer in the frame of time but there was a world of difference between our lives.  When I look at the picture of he and his wife though, I can’t help but feel like they are characters.  I like to think she was sassy.  I like to give them a story.  In a way, I wouldn’t be here today without them, distant relative or not.