When we first moved to this smaller, suburban city I was a little taken back by the lack of reciprocated smiles. I am one of those people that will always smile at a stranger, and am very likely to strike up a conversation in the grocery line, or coffee shop. In Toronto I always found a person looking for a conversation. It was sort of my method of staying sane on this mamahood ride. Most moms I know go back to work after twelve months. * side note – yes we’re are so so lucky here in Canada to receive a long paid maternity leave. So once these friends returned I found myself on the side of lonely. Well, lonely for company that didn’t want to watch Toopy & Binoo, colour with crayons, or play trucks. So, these random friendly strangers became my refuge. Then we moved.
My first few weeks were met with straight faced people. Even when I went out of my way to include them in my day by talking about the great purse they were carrying, or how similar in age our children are, or if the Leafs stood; a chance of winning that night. Nothing. Not even from the other moms! I was becoming worried that I had moved myself into a new zone of loneliness.
Then came the sun …
January in Southwestern Ontario Canada is generally grey, cold and dreary. We get a plenitude of freezing rain, snow, winds, and darker days. But sometimes in the middle of the month a warm front moves in (not quite a Chinook), and with it comes the bright, happy sun. That sunshine brings happier moods, and more friendly people it seems.
Our usual one hour grocery run turned in to a three hour adventure. We first went to our favourite dollar store for a bunch of craft supplies, and some new scented candles. Peaches pointed out the balloons on the wall. I told her she could have one treat, but choose carefully. She picked the balloon – is anyone surprised by this? Of course this meant Little Pea would get a balloon too. The cashier was friendly and just chatty enough to make you feel welcomed to return.
Into the grocery store we went. Two senior women stopped to say hello, admiring the children and their new balloons. Then we went by the bakery section and the baker offered a free cookie for the littles! Three separate strangers stopped to share recipes with products we were both interested in. I left a little shocked by all these friendly people. Did I accidentally slip into a vortex of an alternative location without knowing? Of course with all this new friendliness I failed to see Little Pea’s balloon fall out of his hand. Oh crummy! We could not really return home with just one balloon. I know this could have been an opportune moment to teach them about sharing, but this was the treat of the day, and they were both lovely during this marathon grocery shop, so he deserved to have his own balloon. So we headed back to the dollar store.
The cashier recognized us right away. We picked up the new balloon, and went to pay for it. Kindly, she denied our money. She said it was not fair since we had just been there a little while before. We decided to pay it forward. We purchased the senior gentleman’s (head was next in line) butterscotch candies. On the way out he had already opened the package and taken out two candies. (holding back one for Little Pea, as he is too young for hard candies) “Such a lovely day, and you just made it even better.”
We had one more friendly conversation before loading into the car with a lady who told us that every sunny winter day she thanked her late husband. “They were his favourite days” she said. “The day he was diagnosed with the brain tumor was a sunny winter day. He said nothing is as bad on days like today. He passed away almost one year later. It was a grey day, and he simply muttered, ‘I guess my light’s going out, but I sure have had a lot of sunny days with you sweetheart.'” My eyes were watery afterward. But this lady insisted that her story was not a sad one, but rather one of hope. She said to remember that there are always sunny days ahead, even if today it’s hiding.
When I lived downtown Toronto everyday I walked to one of the most inspiring places, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. That place is full of stories like that lady’s. Each morning I had the pleasure of walking through the busy streets to work. (I’ll tell you about my secret identity in a later post – check back April 1st) listening to my iPod this was always the first song on my playlist, and it always gave me the right amount of hope to start my day. Because it’s true, sunny days are always filled with hope … and in hope, you find … JOY!