I have always thought of our daughter, H, as the Pinata of Joy. I have never met a more naturally joyful individual: she bounces, sings, dances, smiles, and cackles her way through a lot of her life (Dave’s pet name for her is “Joybert”.) Joy radiates from her in excited explosions, like candy from a pinata. She can burst forth at any moment.
As a background, I do not consider myself a naturally joyful person. Dave and I infamously had a conversation prior to having kids where he emotionally expressed his feelings for our life together in a soliloquy, and then passionately asked me at the end, “Kath, are you living the life you imagined?” To which I replied, “Yup.” We still laugh about it to this day, because it was such a referendum on how we both tend to live life.
So having a child who was, essentially, a being of pure joy was somewhat unsettling for me. I realized when she was a baby that my natural facial expression is somewhat dour. I have learned to smile a lot more, and H still responds to my biggest, toothiest, face-wrinkling, cackling smile with glee and hooting. She gazes into my eyes with a joyful light and sparkle that makes it impossible not to smile back, perhaps a child of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Just being around her makes me more joyful.
So where did all of this joy come from? Well, some of it comes from my husband, but in my mind it’s more than emotional intensity. Parents and grandparents sometimes refer to their children as “old souls.” I have one of those, too (E): wise beyond her years, nothing impressing her much. (In fact, one of my ongoing theories about E is that she was a queen in a former life – with food tasters -because she approaches all food with suspicion.) H, on the other hand, was a new soul from the moment of her birth: touching, feeling, seeing, sensing and experiencing everything for the first time. She remains overwhelmed by the beauty of the world around her, and actively looks for ways to spread her joyous nature. She runs up to friends, yelling greetings and then embracing them in a warm hug. At home, H spends her time making cards and writing positive messages to everyone in the house, and then bounces up and down while she waits to see how we react to her creations.
I have wondered, also, whether she can “see” the souls of those around her. She certainly experiences their feelings as her own. I try to imagine what life must be like to have a window into everyone’s good side, to be able to visualize and feel joy in vivid colors as it happens around you. I have learned that soaking in joy from others is part of what “fills up” her Pinata, so she can use it for herself, and to give to others around her. I am personally more joyful as a result, and I actively seek out experiences for her that will bring joy into her life.
We’ll plan to spend this December enjoying the joys of the season, enabling our daughter to get what she needs, while she shares it back to the world around her.
Pure joy, bursting forth.
Kathy Mayer posts regularly with her husband, Dave, on Chasing Hollyfeld.