“Hmm I think I like this guy.” Toni thought as she finished her bagel and bolted her lukewarm coffee. “For now though I have to start my day or I’ll never get my projects done before dinner with Mom and Kraig.” Toni pulled herself off the bed and jumped in the shower before heading out for the day. Throughout the day though her thoughts kept coming back to Yellow’s question. Although he preferred to be called Ted she thought of him as Yellow already and it was hard to change that. She went about her errands and got everything done in plenty of time to head to Mom’s condo.
“Toni, how are you?” asked Kraig as he answered the door in his favorite “Kiss the Cook” apron her mother had gotten him for his birthday in June. “Fine Kraig” she mumbled as she one-arm hugged him and headed to the back of the house. “Mom!” she called out at foghorn decibels elongating the vowel to annoy her mother. “Back here Antoinette and quit making all that racket!” her mother snapped from her sewing room. Toni’s mom, Colleen was a seamstress. Not just a hemmer of pants or letting out of the waist type seamstress but a specialty seamstress. Her specialty was wedding dresses and she could do miracles with already made dresses, re-making them to match the dream of even the very worst Bridezilla. Colleen had garnered quite a reputation and her clientele were extremely appreciative and complimentary. Toni couldn’t even sew on a button but she saw that as a mild form of rebellion.
Toni plopped down on the chaise lounge in the corner of the room and watched as her mother tatted some lace for one of her current re-creations. “What are you working on?” Toni asked with feigned interest. Colleen without looking up said with a droll roll of her eyes “What do you care?”. Toni chuckled confirming her mother’s suspicions and they lapsed into a comfortable silence. The only sounds were the quiet clanking of kitchen implements as Kraig, master chef in his own mind, worked on his own creation in the kitchen, the soft swish of the material as Colleen worked with the delicate lacework and the drumming of Toni’s fingers on the arm of the chaise.
“Toni, you have never been capable of sitting still in your life have you?” her mother asked her with a smile in her voice. Toni laughed and heaving herself up from the chaise she did a circuit of the room picking things up, shuffling through the tiny drawers full of shiny pretty things and running her hands down the beautiful whites and off whites of the dresses in various states of doneness. “No not really Mom, I’m kind of an action person.” she said as she traversed the room.
Colleen put down her tatting and patted the chair beside her at the sewing table. Come sit here with me and tell me all the good and all the bad things about your life my dear. Toni smiled nostalgically and bounded over to sit on the embroidered chair next to her mother. “You’ve been using that quote from ‘Granny Jeannette’s Favorite Things’ since I was about ten years old” Toni told her mother. “Yes I have because it’s a good line!” Colleen exclaimed. “Granny Jeannette had it right in the book didn’t she? It’s certainly better than ‘Hi, how are you?’ which invariably gets ‘Fine, thank you’ as a response. So let’s hear it, the good and the bad.”
“Well there’s nothing new really” Toni began with a sideways glance at Colleen as she sat quietly looking at her only child. “Your words say one thing but your eyes say quite another” her mother said while laying a work-hardened palm on Toni’s cheek. “Is there something wrong?” her mother asked with concern. “No no not at all Mom!” she said with a small giggle and an embarrassed duck of her head. “It’s just that I met this guy. Well no that’s not completely accurate I didn’t meet him so much as I have exchanged emails with him and he seems so interesting and different and smart.” “Well! That sounds positive, tell me about him” Colleen said with a look Toni had seen before. Toni had a tendency to fall for men very quickly and they were always the best thing ever until they weren’t. Toni shook her head and looked down at her ratty tennis shoes with a shrug. “Nah, I’m not ready to talk about him yet.” Just then Kraig called out that dinner was ready.
After dinner and watching the basketball game with Kraig. Toni headed home. She had a beer and checked her emails before heading to bed for the night. The next week was busy but she did think a lot about Yellow’s question and how she might answer it.
Saturday morning after early coffee with Tyler she headed home to her couch. Setting herself up with some pretzels and mustard and a Diet Coke she booted up her laptop and pulled up Yellow’s email. “Hi Ted nice to meet you and please call me Toni. Antoinette makes me sound like a Harlequin Romance heroine thank you very much. Wow you don’t candy coat things do you? It sounds like you have a very interesting life. I can’t say I know much about primates but you have me intrigued. I found myself throughout the week looking up things about chimpanzees, habitats and Jane Goodall. All very educational. Okay so here goes.
When was the first time I felt pure unadulterated joy?
I’ve put some thought into this since you sent me your last email, hence the delayed response. I wanted to respond seriously and needed some time to think about it. I wonder, is it sad that I had to rack my brain to remember the first time I felt joy? I think it is a little.
So this is what I came up with. When I was eight years old my parents bought me a bicycle. I had one already but it was too small so they went out one day as winter melted away and bought me a bigger nicer one with all the bells and whistles. It was a damp almost spring day, you know the kind of day I’m talking about, where you can smell the damp earth and the grass is just beginning to sprout bright green sprigs and the air smells clean and pleasant like a greenhouse. My father had just finished putting it together and had the bike upside down in the garage spinning the wheel with the pedal. I was impatient to ride and had been hounding him for half an hour to hurry up and finish.
He turned it upright and together we rolled it out into the driveway. The sun shined off of the turquoise and white frame like a beacon and I was over the moon excited. My mom was in the doorway on the phone with my grandma and I heard her call out “Blane don’t let her go too far!” as my Dad and I rolled the bike down to the sidewalk where I pushed his hands away and put my leg over the frame, leaning against the seat with one foot on the pedal. I looked at my Dad and he gave me his secret smile and said “Don’t worry Hun she won’t go past the stop sign at Treger!” I looked crestfallen for a moment until he gave me a wink and said “Just go kiddo, don’t tell your mother but just ride until you can’t anymore and then come back. Don’t get lost for goodness sake.” He said quietly as he stepped back and gestured grandly with a swoop of his arm that I should take off.
Freedom Ted. For the first time in my life I was free. I got on that bike and I rode crazy. I stood on the pedals and let the wind blow my hair back from my face. I sat on the seat and coasted on the side of the street letting the water from the morning’s spring shower splash on my feet and legs. I rode as fast as I could down the biggest hilliest street I could find. I rode hands free down the path at the park six blocks from my house, falling once or twice and getting muddy and wet but I didn’t care. I was free. For the first time in my life no one knew where I was. It was a beautiful day but that didn’t even matter. What mattered was that I was an explorer in a new world. I was an adventurer on my first quest. I was on my own – making my own choices and doing my own thing, going where I wanted to go. Do you remember that Ted? The first time you felt that freedom? It’s exhilarating and scary and empowering and joyful. This Ted, this is it. This is the first time I can remember feeling pure unadulterated joy.
Now your turn.