I love to smile. I adore getting them, and I adore giving them away. I’m not including grimaces or the so-called non-Duchennes varieties; I’m referring to the authentic kind. They can start the day right and they can cap the perfect kiss at the end of the evening. Certain smiles have changed my life forever. I remember them more so than the facts and figures that come so easily to others. In a way, I collect the memories of smiles and arrange them in my mind’s collage.
There was the smile given to me by the girl in the wheelchair when we were both young girls. She was crippled, taking her walk around the block in her wheelchair, and she made me feel as if I was the most important person in the world to her in that moment. Through our friendship and her smiles, I came to understand gratitude for just being. She and I connected through the softness of those smiles, and I can recall that feeling of connection even today.
Then there was the smile I gave to an elderly man many, many years ago in a Backbay Boston grocery store (yes, I actually lived in town back then, a country girl in the city). As I met his gaze with my have-a-nice-day-so-glad-to-see-you-smile, he paused with his eyes in misty disbelief. He commented to me that in this world of people rushing, always rushing, how much my lingering smile had meant to him. That encounter made an enduring impression upon me, that with such a simple gesture I made a difference to someone.
There are certain smiles which reach deeply beneath the surface of our outer façade, that face that we present to the world. There was that smile from my friend across the room at a party, when my eyes met his, and wordless volumes were exchanged. And then there was the smile given me by my yoga teacher. I had descended into the depths of despair that day as I entered for sun salutations, and her smile swooped in and began its healing work right away. And of course there were those smiles emerging from the faces of my grouchy children after the temper tantrum of the day had been overcome, tears replaced by hugs and cuddles. And then there are the smiles I get from our bighearted dog who by the way, has cancer, so I take those smiles more seriously these days. He can smile on cue, and for posterity, I have the Christmas cards with his toothy grins to remind me – another addition to the collage.
A woman has two smiles that an angel might envy – the smile that accepts a lover before words are uttered, and the smile that lights on the first born babe, and assures it of a mother’s love. – Thomas C. Haliburton