My dad wears loafers now, and I wear low-top Chucks. His hair is silver, like the tinfoil above, and mine is run through with silver. When we were both younger, we laid that brick patio together. He was always adamant about doing all home improvement work himself. He still is. When I talk to him on the phone, he tells me how the drywall job that we started this winter is progressing. He tells me that the work moves much more slowly without me around. When we laid that brick patio in 1980, the work probably went more slowly with me around. My mom tells me that I was quick to recognize the pattern of the bricks, and I love it when she tells me that; but now that I'm thinking about it, my guess is that I probably put down two or three bricks while my dad did all the work, work whose purpose lay outside of my understanding. Why even improve a home? Why lay a patio? What did I know? I was four.
I remember that a neighbor girl, Lindsey, tripped on a loose brick, but I don't know if this was before or after we laid the patio. Were we fixing the patio so Lindsey, the toddler, wouldn't trip again? Or did we lay the shoddy patio that Lindsey tripped on? I'm sure my mom will read this and tell me. Whatever the answer is, I remember a party on that patio. On a sunny day, probably in the summer, and definitely on the weekend, my mom came home with an enormous box of tacos from Taco Bell. I remember her striding across the deck with a box of tacos in her arms. This is an enormously important memory for me because (a) I had never seen a taco before and (b) this is the oldest memory I have of eating outside. The tacos completely blew my mind. Each one was wrapped in white paper with the yellow and purple Taco Bell logo, and they were crunchy and salty, and they had shredded yellow cheese on them, and the taco shells cracked, and the tacos fell apart, and cheese landed on the bricks, and ants hustled for the cheese, and it was totally magical. I have no idea who attended the party. I only remember the tacos. The tacos and the sun and my mom striding across the deck.
Eating lunch on the porch on beautiful spring afternoons is what I live to do. I don't live to dine at fancy restaurants, and I don't live to sit in my bedroom all winter and look out at the grey sky, though perhaps I should. When my garden is blooming and I'm eating leftover pizza in the sun, I am happy. Or perhaps blessed is the better word. No matter how hard we work at it, we cannot contrive happiness into being. Moments of real happiness are rare, and that's probably how it should be. We can position ourselves, care for ourselves, and articulate our homes so that happiness comes around more often, but we probably shouldn't put a happy number into one end of a spreadsheet and expect a string of happy numbers to come out the other end. The patron saint of Happiness is probably not a bookkeeper. On the other hand, there is recognition. We can recognize happiness when it's happening, and we can remember the times when it did happen, and that's good. I enjoyed this cold, leftover pizza more than I enjoyed it hot from the oven. It was the middle of the day, and the sun was flaring on the tin foil. Show me food on fire in aluminum foil and I'll smile. That's a truth I'll swear on my grandmother's grave.