I took a photo of a double rainbow from my sunroom window a few weeks ago and emailed it to all my friends and family, because seeing it had given me so much joy and I wanted to share it. The response I got from quite a few gave me the idea for this month’s blog. I started thinking what exactly is it that makes me smile.
Of course, you realize, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and the tendency to self-reflection is something with which many of us are dealing. I include myself. So, I started writing a list of things that made me smile, which went on and on, but showed me that it depended on the time in my life these smiles occurred. I found myself dividing my life into sections.
When I was newly married, my husband was commissioned an officer in the United States Air Force and we moved to Texas where our son was born. Early smiles were centered around the new baby, and meeting and making friends with other military people. As time went on, traveling to new places and different climates were added along with more new friends. I started collecting masks and sculptural faces for decoration and to fill up empty places on walls and also to remind me of some of those places we had been and people we’d met. Many of my masks have smiles on their faces.
One of those military assignments was to an R.O.T.C. detachment at North Texas State University for four years in the late 1970s. My husband taught Aerospace Studies and I provided a social home for many of his students along with our commander and other officers. I’m proud to say I am still in touch with some of those former students and we still exchange Christmas cards and yearly newsletters. In fact last week, one of those students sent me a current photo of his growing family that not only brought me a smile, but also a tear of pride to my eye.
After my husband and I separated and divorced, and my parents died, I spent some time reinventing myself. I hadn’t finished college before marrying, so my choices were limiting, but as luck would have it, I met a gal who was a rather famous belly dancer and we hit it off as friends. She was generous enough to share with me her secrets to success in this business and also in costume design. My gal-friend’s job took her to nightclubs in New York and New Jersey and I lived in Alabama where there were none, so I had to come up with a way to use these skills I was learning in a totally different environment. I decided to start a Belly Gram business. People hired me to dance a short routine for someone’s special occasion like a birthday, anniversary, farewell, get-well, even family reunion. I spent more than twenty years in this job and had smiling moments every single day. I loved it. I was fortunate enough to be able to help someone celebrate their special day! What could be better?!
Before I decided it was time to retire from dancing, my next career slipped into my life. For over fifty years I had been searching for a sister I knew existed and suddenly found. Talk about smiles! For those who don’t know, I was orphaned when just a toddler and later adopted at the age of four and a half. But I digress. I decided I wanted to write a book about my search to honor the ALMA Society, the agency who helped me find her, and also to have something to dedicate to her. It took me many years since I had to learn how to write. I started attending writing conventions and reading everything I could find about writing and then I began writing. It took me ten years, about 8 years after I retired from dancing, to get the book written, find an agent who found my publisher, and SHE HAD TO KNOW became a reality.
And now I am retired, retired! I write my blog each month and I try to help promote authors whose work I admire, because reading has become my favorite activity as I get older. As a result, I feel so fortunate to be able to say that several authors have become friends. I have bookshelves on either side of my desk in my office where my computer is, so each morning when I come in to read my email, I have a whole lot of people to greet. How can I say I live alone?! That makes me smile!
And during all this I’ve continued to search for my birth family. A year ago, through Ancestry.com, another sister was found. We have visited with one another once, but then the pandemic hit, and we have had to limit our contact to emails, but that’s okay. This sister has a sister whom I haven’t met yet, and that’s something for me to look forward to. And I recently discovered I have a granddaughter I didn’t know I had. She is also an Ancestry.com discovery. Luckily, I was able to meet her and attend both her high school graduation and her wedding. I am so thrilled. Maybe the family will be growing one of these days. There are smiles and more smiles coming in the future I’m sure!
What are the things that make you smile? I’d love to hear!
Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.