Unexpected Contentment

Stephen’s son and his family drove up from Pasadena to visit for the first time since the Corona Virus outbreak. Miles, Nathan’s five-year-old son, hadn’t seen his six-year-old cousin Lucien for over two years. And our identical twin, just one-year-old grandsons had never even met their Pasadena cousin, aunt, uncle or great-auntie. The weekend was packed with parks and wrestling and running, capped off by a trip to Fourth Street in Berkeley on Sunday morning.

Going to Fourth Street, its sidewalks bustling with tourists and locals, is like a road trip for me. People from all over the Bay Area congregate there to shop and dine, or to simply amble along, gazing into shop windows, stopping for a coffee or running into Market Hall for a snack, or pausing to take in the weekend musicians–bands and single performers—playing just outside of Peet’s.

We engaged in all of this, the twins chortling in their stroller, the two older boys running ahead, the adults still catching up after so very long apart. We eventually ended up at the south end of the strip, in the mall-like area defined by Warby Parker at one end, and Reveille Cafe at the other.

The weather was glorious—sunny and warm—and we settled into an area with benches and open space, where the boys and babies could run and toddle freely. Finding myself a bit on the outside of conversation, I took the opportunity to lie back and relax for a few moments, letting the sunshine and balmy air seep into my body.

As I lay there, half present and half absent, snippets of conversation drifted toward me, some of them from our family, some from strangers. “. . . for lunch.” “Let’s race. . .” “Next time. . .” “Da, da, da. . .” “. . . not really. . .”Although I didn’t try, I was surprised at how random snippets of words exchanged between people—except for the baby babbling—made sense to me. But more than the sense these words made, was the feeling of profound happiness and relaxation that spread over me.

What a perfect moment, I thought, the weather, family, strangers, all contributing to an interlude of contentment I had not at all expected. A moment earlier, I had been fully present to the smiles of the babies, the straight, slender, smooth-skinned bodies of the older boys, the conversation about health and exercise the adults were holding. And I was enjoying the sense of connection and bonding. Then, simply by lying back on the bench and surrendering to whatever came my way, I felt myself receiving even more: the best of everything around me, as I lay there, floating on a sea of contentment, while the world nourished me.

Peeling Paint


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