I had to define what I think constitutes a simple pleasure before I could name any. After a year of driving a car that would alternately overheat or not start, I thought that the sound of my car starting would be a simple pleasure. I had to spend a lot of money for that particular simple pleasure so it isn’t all that simple. But it is a pleasure. Likewise, the feeling I get when I stand in the hallway of my home, looking at the warm gold of the living room walls and seeing pictures of the people I love, is a mixture of pride and humility and amazement. It is my nest; but even if my nest isn’t expensive, it isn’t free either.
I decided that if money can buy it, it isn’t simple. That pared down my list. I also deducted the givens. I love my family and friends. I love Bob. That love astonished me when I celebrated my birthday in October. I am still wearing a shawl made of that love. It’s weatherproof and bulletproof, I think. There’s just nothing simple about that love.
I ended up listing quickly 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 the things that I want to think about in my last moments of life. I will already be wearing my shawl of love and carrying my huge basket of memories. Salt and pepper and garlic are the norm. These simple pleasures are the oregano and basil of my life.
1. Holding hands—Georgie has strong smooth hands that move surely and with certainty. My middle grand-daughter, Savanna, has hands like Georgie’s. Sure and strong. Jack had slender long fingers with the tips roughened by guitar picking; Nina, my oldest grand-daughter’s hands are like that except hers are very smooth. She’s a pianist and not a guitarist. Sophia and Travis have little hands that are rarely still, Bob’s hands are large and powerful and rough. There is a cozy intimacy, a warm familiarity in wrapping hands together. It’s a “let me show you the way home” feeling.
2. Hearing the promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition or the 1812 Overture while I am alone in the car and can air conduct the orchestra—I have mentioned that I have no musical ability. I don’t have any illusions of that. Both of those songs are bombastic, huge, and incredibly beautiful to me. Some people play air guitar, I air conduct symphonies. I conduct them the way I believe real conductors conduct: dramatic and emotional. Any music student who has ever conducted anything would look at me and grin. Oh well. My spirit soars when I swing my imaginary baton.
3. Re-reading a favorite book—I have three books that are my friends for life. I re-read one of them when I feel disenchanted with life, disenfranchised from humanity. That only happens once every 10 years or so, but when it does, I can pull out Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or Emmuska Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. All three of them contain my literary BFF’s.
4. Barefooting on the beach—I have these short fat feet. “Peasant feet” was what John called them. However ugly they are, they are utilitarian so peasant feet they are. They can carry me for miles, not quickly, but steadily. I love the feeling of sand under my feet, waves brushing over them. They feel like Bo Derek feet, sexy and alive. They feel free and beautiful. There’s a texture to the sand that massages my soles.
5. Hot shower and clean sheets—I am a cradle Catholic and Saturdays were predictable at our house. We stripped sheets off the beds, washed them, and hung them on the line to dry. Beds were remade with sunshine. The three of us trooped up to church with Mother at 4 p.m. and did confession. That was in the day when it was confession and not reconciliation. I can do a confession run through today even though I haven’t been for more than 30 years. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been 1 week since my last confession. During that time, I talked back to my parents and fought with my sisters. These are my sins and I’m sorry for them. I wonder if the poor priest ever wanted to say, “Get a life. Or some new sins!” I left church feeling clean. Hair washings and baths followed dinner. There was something holy about sleeping on those clean sheets with a clean body and with a soul that I believed had also been cleansed. This is one of the textures of life that massages my soul still.