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Happy Is Happy

Family came from all over the country for a blitz weekend in Ohio to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary, fifty years to the day.  The party felt very much like a wedding reception, with this added bonus: the relationship has weathered the storm and passed the tests of time.  Five decades in a culture where one decade is a rarity.

We celebrated promises kept.

We watched a video of their fifty years together.  My mom and her sister sat together, watching the story of their third sister unfold with the memories they recall like yesterday.  How can fifty years pass so quickly?

I listened and watched, feeling the familiar tug on my heart, the strangle hold of panic, anxiety, and memories of love lost.  I lost my chance at fifty years.

But, I scolded myself, happy is happy, even if it’s not your happy.  Delight in this, Tricia.  It’s a beautiful thing.

My tears spilled.  Quietly.  Gently. I wasn’t alone in my emotion; the room filled with people who had been impacted by the fruit and contagious spirit of this couple’s love.  Their memories danced around us.

And then the honored couple took the dance floor.  They do one impressive jitterbug, born in my grandparents’ basement when Ross and Janet were dating.  All of us have loved to watch them twist and spin, so light on their feet, anticipating each other’s next move with the most intuitive choreography.

He raised his glass to toast the many who had come so far, and then he toasted his bride.  He quoted the vows they had made: in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, for better or for worse.  I know those words so well.  And they take me down every time.

My brother slipped beside me.  “Want to slip out for a while?”


But I wasn’t sure I could stand.  He took my hand and led me quietly from the ballroom to the foyer, where I gasped for breath and wept into my scarf.  He sat beside me as I rode the familiar wave that carries me, far away from sensibility and then back again.

My makeup had washed away.  My scarf was damp.  My breaths were measured and intentional.

Happy is happy, even if it’s not your happy.

“I’m ready to go back inside now.”
“You’re sure?”
“I’m sure.”
With that same strong arm of grace, he led me back to our table.

The dance floor filled, and the party flourished with loud grandeur.  My heart raced.  My hands trembled.  I held firmly to my chair.  I can’t go out there.  I cannot.

I watched my cousins, some of my favorite people in all the world, dance and twirl, hoot and holler.  I can’t miss this.  I cannot.

Happy is happy, even if it’s not your happy.

“I want to dance.”
My brother took my hand.  “Let’s do it.”

We joined the frenzy on the dance floor.  My children have never quite seen me that way before: nearly inaccessible to them for the joy of the dance floor.  They stood at the perimeter and reached for me, clinging. I peeled them off.  Dance with me or step aside, my loves.  I won’t be held down tonight.

(They joined me. Before the night was over, Tuck told me how impressed he was with himself as a dancer.)

My five-year-old kept pace with me as I sang every word of Paradise by the Dashboard Light, a family favorite.  We all act it out, the men vs. the women, as a team of lovers against lovers, arguing for a conclusion.  Someday my son will think I’m exceedingly cool for letting him in on such smut.

“Everybody on the dance floor for the YMCA!”

Oh.  Oh my.  The YMCA.

My mind returned to my wedding reception, the silly memories of the dance of the groomsmen.  Robb danced with provocative moves his mother had never seen before, where the children giggled and the grownups blushed, and everyone agreed these two virgins should head on out the door to their honeymoon.  Quickly.

Such a silly song.  Such potent memories. I could wallow in the memory, or I could make a new one.

It’s time to do this.  I gathered my little boys and swept them onto the dance floor.  “Guys, here’s what you do with your arms in this song.  Let me see you make a Y.  That’s it – just like that!  Now show me an M!”

Robb, I’m teaching them the fun, the silly, the you.

Just as that song finished, the DJ shouted, “Any Buckeye fans in the house?!”  The room erupted with whoops and cheers as we heard the beginning of Hang on Sloopy, an Ohio State Marching Band favorite.

“Guys!  This was Daddy’s song!  Listen!  Come dance with me again!”
“Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on!”

Robb, I’m teaching them.  The chants and cheers of TBDBITL, the battle cry of Buckeye fans.

We danced all night long.  The men carried children on their shoulders.  The women paraded and twirled and partnered and dipped.  It was glorious.  We danced until the children were lying on the floor in exhaustion.  That is the way to celebrate fifty years.

Happy is happy, even if it’s not your happy.

Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Oh Tricia. You have made me cry once again. This time….whilst eating pita chips and hummus. There are seriously tears in my hummus now. LOL.

  2. Glad you found your cleats and got them on in time. Congrats to the happily married and to you for recognizing what happy really is.

  3. Beautiful !

  4. I am so proud of you for this one Tricia! Not just coming back into the room as a wallflower needing attention and not even victoriously celebrating over anxiety, but Rejoicing in memories with your children and family close by. That is success!! Congratulations, now keep that stone close to add to your foundation as you build.

  5. Tricia,

    I love hearing about your happy, about your struggles to see the joy in sorrow, and your fight. You are such a fighter. You are tenacious, you are a sassy, firey woman who is a joy to be around. I miss seeing you at the coffee shop, but I love hearing about you and your adventures through the internets. You love and are loved. Thank you for being you! Keep it up my dear!


  6. oh my…this post really got me. I don’t know about you, but I would say this was “your happy” too :). way to go Tricia. I’m sure your boys will always remember how happy their mom was on that night.

  7. Tricia, once again your gift for saying what is on your heart has put me there in the room with you and your experience. I am so happy for each step that you are taking that celebrates not only what you and Robb had but also celebrates you as a survivor! God bless you and the boys!

  8. I have stumbled onto your site through the backdoor… someone sending me to another site and that site mentioning how they follow yours because it is written by such a wonderful writer. I want to rub elbows with wonderful writers, to be in the presence of people who love words the way I do… who use them to teach and paint pictures… not just to fill a page… and you my dear, have caused me to click “follow” something I promised I would not do… because I am trying to finish editing my book… one that has taken far too long to finish… but I have to follow her… I argue with myself… you are taking the rawest form of life’s lessons and using it to glorify…
    you my dear took your wise brother’s words…. “Happy is happy, even if it’s not your happy.” and lived them to the fullest.
    Thank you for teaching me.
    I am praying for your strength.
    I lost my first husband a few years ago,
    differently, we were no longer married but I loved him. He was the father of my children. We didn’t have the hateful kind of divorce that is the norm… we still said we loved each other when we said goodbye. So in the smallest smidgen of a crumb, I understand your pain.
    But the lesson you teach today… finding your happy in someone else’s is pretty darn powerful. Thank you.

  9. Tears are in my eyes…. what a choice to make – to make new memories and teach your boys the fun their daddy enjoyed. Bless you, dear Tricia.

  10. oh my…this post really got me. and I don’t know about you, but I’d say it turned out to be “your happy” too. way to go Tricia…I’m sure your boys will always remember their mom on that night.

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