When I was a kid, I would sometimes catch myself in a moment where I would think “I am completely and utterly happy right now”. Strangely, I can’t remember a single one of these moments though I have wispy memories of our dog being involved one time, of an enchanted evening playing in a friend’s maze-like attic, and of a dressed up outing to the city with my mother to see the ballet. What I do remember is the feeling, a truly profound feeling, of everything being right in the world in a way that could simply not be improved upon. By my teens these moments had ceased. I hankered after them for a while, because this happiness, each a little bliss bomb, was like a drug. Gradually I almost forgot they ever existed.
I woke in the middle of the night a few nights ago and realised that I had one of these moments last summer. Last summer was special. Everything was infused with sepia as it happened. It was the last year where Chicago would be our home. We knew at Christmas we would be heading back to Australia after 6 and a half years. Everything was bittersweet.
In fact the whole year was a series of freeze frames. Walking home from the train station in the whisper white quiet world of a fresh snowfall. The first firefly of summer. The madness of our Halloween with friends. Every moment was inspected more closely, the awareness of enjoyment more heightened. This time with our friends and our adopted home so woefully finite. In retrospect, the year was a gift.
The moment happened when we were in Michigan at our friends’ farm. A whole week of fun was drawing to a close. It was a hot day, there had been swimming and go carts, wood-fired pizza and song, but now only three of us were awake. My friend Emily, my daughter Petunia (as she has forever been known on these pages), and I. It would have been close to midnight and we were sitting outside. Emily and I drinking red wine. There was not a cloud in the sky, and being hundreds of miles from the nearest city, the stars were brilliant. The three of us sat at a table, leaning back in our chairs trying to spot a satellite or shooting star, and when our necks complained we decided to change position.
We got down on the ground and laid on the pavers beside the table. It had been such a hot day that the pavers were still very warm, a hot stone treatment under our bodies. After a few moments Emily got up and turned off every single source of light and walked carefully back to her spot.
We lay close, arms by our sides, like three french fries in the inky dark. Our chatter became softer as the dark saturated us. We watched the stars and became tiny. There were satellites, there were shooting stars, and just the three of us, alone in the universe.
It was perfect.