Life is made up of a few big things and an incredible number of little things. I’m lucky when it comes to the big things. I found a man who became my best friend and the love of my life, and my life has been touched by some other really amazing people. I am relatively healthy, with a mind and body that mostly carry out my will. However, I may be even luckier when it comes to the little things. I appreciate them, I revel in them, and I let them totally make my day when they come along.
Yesterday, I walked up the road to check our mail. An older woman lives in the house next to the mailbox, and she was outside with her dog, as she often is. She yelled something in greeting, and her fat, barky little dog approached me. I asked her (in French, she speaks no English) if he was mean or nice. She said he was nice, and he soon proved it. I’m pretty sure I have a lifelong friend in Buddy, after finding *THAT SPOT* on his chest and petting him for a while. I introduced myself to the woman (Madame Tremblay), and then spelled my name for her when my Anglophone name proved as difficult for her ear and tongue as some Francophone names are for mine. She invited me to sit with her on the comfortable swing in her front yard, and I accepted. I told her I am American, that my husband is military, and how long we have lived here. I told her that I find the people here to be very nice as long as I try in French. She giggled at that, and said, “If the English are polite, why not?!?” She prattled on for perhaps 15 minutes. I didn’t understand even half of what she said, but I understood some, and she seemed to enjoy the company. I finally walked back home to her happy wave and, “À la prochaine!” (See you next time.) Just a little thing, but Madame Tremblay and our weird conversation made me smile.
Today, I headed down to the bustling metropolis (Québec) with a friend who offered to come along to keep me company. I had exactly one task to complete, that of registering for my Québec health card, and we had decided to have lunch in Québec while we were there. The gentleman who helped me was exceptionally friendly and patient (rather surprising, as many government clerks/administrators are rather taciturn). He spoke English pretty well (much better than I speak French for now), but he spoke slowly enough in French that I could understand most things, and he didn’t seem to have any trouble understanding my French. We joked about how poorly expressions translate from one language to another. After we finished there, I stepped over to the area where photos are taken for the health cards. The woman was very nice, and also spoke English (I continued to speak in French as much as I was able; I think my genuine efforts to communicate in French are one reason why I find most people to be so friendly). She found out I live in the Sagnuenay, and her face dropped immediately into an apologetic smile, “Oh! Saguenay?!? I thought you lived here.” Ha! I told her it was fine, that living in Saguenay means I always get to practice my French. Just little things, kind people doing their jobs and being friendly to a stranger. But they made me smile.
Then we hopped back into Bunny (the husband’s car, which gets way better fuel economy than Ginny) and decided to seek out a mall to kill some time until we were ready for lunch. We were stopped at a traffic light when we saw two bundles (I don’t know what else to call them; they were attached to one another by rope!) of toddlers walking down the sidewalk with two adults. As we watched, one child in the second group tripped and fell down, and almost immediately there was a three-child pile-up on the sidewalk. My friend and I were laughing so hard we were nearly crying, and then we laughed even harder when we caught sight of the people in the car next to us laughing helplessly, as well. Just a small thing, toddlers lurching about and falling like dominoes, but we got some serious giggles out of it.
At the mall, we went in search of the washrooms. When we finally found them, we also found an indoor amusement park! There was a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and other rides, right there in the mall! We found the listing for times, and saw the rides opened at noon, and we vowed to ride the coaster. At noon, we purchased our tickets and happily giggled our way up to the entrance for the roller coaster. We were the only two people in line, and the young man operating the ride agreed to take a photo for us. The coaster ascended into darkness before spinning its way through crazy blue light and back out into the mall. Perhaps because we are cute, or perhaps because he could hear us giggling through the whole thing, the operator sent us around for a second ride, free. Just a small thing, but still a fun memory.
After our ride, we were finally ready for lunch, so we set off to find the Vietnamese restaurant we had decided to try. We found Le Restaurant Pho Saigon with no trouble, I managed to parallel park Bunny (with rather a lot of trouble, but I got it done), and we went inside. We were happy to see beef pho on the lunch menu, and we both ordered a bowl. Our waitress didn’t switch to English and didn’t seem to have any trouble understanding our French (another small thing, but always a happy one for those of us trying to acquire a new language). As soon as she brought the plate of extras (sprouts, basil leaves, and peppers) to the table, I got excited. This looked like the real deal. I hadn’t had real pho since we left Oklahoma City in July of 2012. Our two steaming bowls arrived, and I was thrilled to find that it was REAL pho, not some sort of unfamiliar and fundamentally different Québécois version. I’m sure I’ve enjoyed some meals more, but none in recent memory. A small thing, a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup, but it tasted like happiness.
None of these little things were life-changing. But they are the stuff of which fun memories are made, and I appreciate them. Having enough of the little things is a big thing, and I am a lucky girl.