Originally published June 3, 2014
I lived in the mountains all my life. It was a cold place. The only time I remember being warm was in the afternoons of summer. Lying on the grass, basking in the sun for an hour or so, feeling the warmth of its rays bake into the bones, was a pleasure I can barely express. The nights were always chilly enough to make me shiver to the bone.
Life was hard. We gathered wood for fires and hauled water from the well. We had only what we could grow or find ourselves, or trade, or, on rare occasion, buy.
But I was always happy. I loved being among my family, who told stories and sang songs. We laughed together, teased each other, told jokes. Even when I got married, and had to move from that house, I was happy. My husband was my friend and he always did small things to please me, as I did for him. So although conditions were difficult, we were good to each other, and that made all the difference.
We had five children. From the time my middle boy was a was a child, we could already see that the village was too small for him. When he was older, he wanted to get an education more than the our small village could provide. That meant moving alone to the city, several hours away. We knew we would miss him but we all encouraged him. He was smart and resourceful. He got his education and found good job and sent money home so the rest of us could have the basic necessities and even treat ourselves to a small luxury now and then.
My boy eventually married a girl from the city. They had children and lived in a nice place with all the things he didn’t have growing up in the mountains. We went to visit a few times, and to be honest, as much as I was impressed with all the modern conveniences, the whole place scared me. I much preferred the tempo and familiarity of our small, familiar community.
After about a dozen years, my son and his wife became unhappy. She took their children and moved far away. He was sad and lonely, alone in the big city. He was far too used to city ways by then to come home, and besides, what kind of job could he do? He had no country skills.
My heart ached for him, because he had become a man without a home; living between here and there, in the place where there is nothing in between.
But it made me realize that happiness comes not from what you have or where you are, but who you are with. And on all those cold nights, having fallen bone tired into bed, wrapped up safe in my husband’s arms, I counted my blessings.