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The Bay Window by Sharon Randall: Savoring moments of happiness

Sitting on a bench in front of the school, I closed my eyes, felt the sun on my face and listened.

Children laughing. Parents talking. Cars passing. Crows cawing. A perfect soundtrack for a postcard perfect day.

The crowd was growing, waiting to pick up children. Most of the waiters were rookies, kindergarten parents with toddlers in tow.

Not me. I was a veteran. My three children had all gone to that school. If the PTA gave an award for the most hours spent waiting out in front, I might not win, but I’d be a contender.

My youngest child teaches third grade there now. I try to visit the boy’s classroom when I can to tell his students stories of what he was like at their age. It helps to keep him in his place.

But I wasn’t there for the boy this time. He’d get home on his own. I was there to pick up his boy, my grandson, Randy, who’s in kindergarten. I don’t get to do it often, just when I’m in town.

For some 30 years, I lived a few blocks from the school. Then my children grew up, we lost their dad to cancer, and I found myself alone in a big empty house with five sets of dishes and nobody to feed.

Years later, I remarried and moved with my new husband to Las Vegas. Then our children started having babies. Now we are “yo-yo” grandparents going back and forth between Nevada and California to visit them.

We share five grandchildren, so far. Randy’s the oldest. Last weekend we went to the zoo for a birthday party for Henry, who is 4. This weekend, we’ll go to a gymnastics party for Charlotte, also 4. And today, when we take Randy home, we’ll get to play with Wiley, who’s almost 3, and Baby Eleanor, 8 months old.

I wish you could see them. And I wish I could explain to you why it lights me up like Christmas just to see them smile. But some things can’t be explained. They can only be felt.

While waiting for Randy, I shared the bench with a woman who said she was waiting to do art projects with children in the after-school program.

When I told her I was picking up my grandson and that my son teaches at the school, her eyes flashed in recognition.

“Wait,” she said, “are you ... ?”

“Yes,” I said, “I am.”

Turns out she had read some of my columns over the years. She said very kind things about the boy, as a teacher, and me, as a writer. I wanted to hug her.

Then she hurried off to enrich the lives of children, leaving me on the bench, grateful for how she had just enriched mine.

Mothers and writers need all the encouragement we can get. It gives us reason to hope. Or at least, it helps us get out of bed.

Suddenly, I thought about my family. My children were doing well. My grandchildren were healthy. My husband, the best grandpa on the planet, was waiting in the car to take Randy and me to the beach.

Life was good. I was blessed.

It was a small moment, but I wanted to remember it. I wished I’d had it years ago on darker days, times when I wondered if I would ever smile again. What a gift it would have been to look into the future and see myself on that bench, older, wiser, grinning like a mule eating briars, happy as happy ever gets.

No one goes through life without a few heartaches. Grief is huge. It hides the sun. The happiest moments often seem small, fleeting as a few grains of salt in a bowl of soup. Yet, if we remember them, they add just enough hope to make the bitter moments taste better. What else is memory for, if not flavor?

I stored that moment in the back of my heart in a place where I keep things I don’t want to lose. I hope you’re storing some, too. You never know when we’ll need a little salt.

Then I looked up and saw Randy, with the sun spitting sparks from his hair, running like Jacob’s angel to tackle me.