Don’t it feel good to smile.

I am driving a lot these days.  There is a little boy who needs me.  So, twice a week, I load my little Volkswagen up and I make an almost five-hour trip.  That’s a lot of highway to travel.  A lot of bored reading the same signs and remembering to notice if the people in the yellow house have gotten around to taking down their Christmas lights miles. (They haven’t.)  So, in desperation, I put a call out to my music-loving friends on social media.  Please, I begged, give me some new music to listen to.  And, I got some replies.

Imagine Dragons, a sad man singing mournful songs and a Kelly Clarkson song that I actually like.  But, then, there was my friend Michaela’s suggestion.  Michaela is that friend everyone should have.  Or at least every music loving person should have.  She loves music.  She loves it more than me.  That’s saying a lot.  She loves it so much that I actually slept in my car one weekend, not too long ago, at a gigantic music festival surrounded by thousands of drunk college students just to enjoy it with her.  She just makes music better.  Anyway, in her list were only two people.  Two Texas Country artists.  So, I added them to my new Spotify list and went on my way planning to listen to the list the next time I got on the road.

That turned out to be a beautiful Friday morning when the air was soft and I had the whole day to myself.  I was driving with my windows down and feeling the joy that comes from being on the road with good music to listen to. I had no way of knowing that in a few minutes I would be parked on the shoulder of the road sobbing. But, I was.  Crooked parked on some long winding driveway between Granbury and Stephenville on Highway 377 heaving sobs over a song. A song from Michaela’s suggestions.

I don’t even know how to explain it to all of you. I promise I’m not any crazier than I’ve ever been.  Same amount as usual.  But, somehow, that song gifted to me by my old friend, had transported me back to a million moments at a kitchen table.  My bare feet were resting on the cool legs underneath and my hair was unbrushed and my parents were there. MY parents. My mom and dad. Darvin and Sandra.  Those people, who I would give every penny I have to spend one more second with were, all of a sudden, there. The way they smelled (old spice and roses), the sound of Dad’s laugh and, most important, most amazingly important, the song remembered what it felt like to be with them together. Both of them in the same room.  With me.  How many years had it been since I felt that?

The song was shiny grocery store floors on early morning shopping trips with them.  It was Daddy tapping his foot with a fly swatter while he listened to mom read.  It was my mom’s hand on the back of Dad’s neck.  It was being woken up by the sound of them laughing with their friends at two in the morning.  It was laying on the couch on a Saturday afternoon and listening to them make a grocery list.  This song embodied everything that made my parents feel like the safest place to be when I was scared, or lonely or lost.  It was their gentle humor.  It was their understanding that we didn’t have much, but that it was ok to share it anyway. The dinner might be coming off a cracked plate and the ketchup bottle might be grimy and the noise level deafening, but when you were with these people you could lay your troubles down for just a minute.  Mom would ask what you had been up to and she would listen when you answered.  She would listen all the way.  She really cared.  Daddy would shuffle around and eventually a plate of food would land in front of you and then silverware and eventually a paper towel for a napkin, and sometime, much later, he would join you and eat his own food.

I hear so many experts talk about living in the moment, but I learned it from the two people who knew how to do it best.  Mom and Dad didn’t have an easy life and they struggled, but they had some deep wisdom that let them understand that there was nothing more valuable than the people they were going through all the troubles with.  They loved their folks.  They helped them when they could, but, mostly, they just enjoyed them.  My God, I pray for their wisdom.  I pray to stop managing and stop worrying and just put a pot of coffee on and watch people smile, make them laugh if I can and listen with my whole self when they tell me how they are.

At the end of the day, life is hard.  People you love die.  Storms come and bills pile up, but there are those brief moments we all get to just enjoy being together, to slow down, to enjoy being alive.  Those early mornings when the coffee is on and the baby is still sleeping and we are with people we love.  So, to Kevin Galloway and Michaela, I will be forever grateful for that song.  That song that caused me to pull over and cry into the early morning air and to remember what it felt like to be with my folks on an ordinary day. Kind, present people who enjoyed good when it showed up and survived the bad by being together. I can feel them urging me on.  To reach for their wisdom.  To enjoy the ordinary moments that help you survive the heartache. Moments spent riding around with my friend Austin while he plays us his new favorite song and turns the music up way too loud.  Moments spent poking at the fire while drinking coffee with my husband, Moments spent holding my daughter’s hand.  Moments spent kissing the bottom of my grandson’s feet.  Ordinary seconds in an ordinary life that will someday make you cry in someone’s driveway because they were so fantastically wonderful.

So, stay with me little song.  Keep showing up when I need you. Keep wrecking me. Do whatever is necessary to remind me that at the end of the day, no matter how troubled it was, don’t it feel good to smile?

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