The Happiest Moment of My Life

The first chapter of Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence is entitled 'The Happiest Moment of My Life'. The first sentence reads; It was the happiest moment of my life, though I didn't know it. Being in the physical museum facing the display case for this chapter, the one that contains an ear-ring and a curtain fluttering in the breeze, I began to think about what might be in mine. I also have a moment in time that I recall with happiness in which a curtain plays a part. When Ruskin (now 15) was 3 years old I was sitting in Ingleton village hall listening to Kate Rusby sing and watching him play behind a curtain. The curtain ended at the level of his knees and as he had taken off his shoes and was looking out of the window I was watching just his dancing calves. Having a small part framed in this way I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of his muscles and skin. It is the time when you are getting used to this little being who has been so close to you beginning a life that is separate. His response to the music and his thoughts were his own and I was filled with happiness and wonder that this person, having been so much part of me was beginning to take flight. That we were listening to Kate Rusby singing 'All god's angels' at the time definitely contributed to my emotion!

This happiness is of course tinged with loss and fear. It is hard to find snapshots of happiness that do not contain large doses of other, and sometimes contradictory emotions. The children make me incredibly happy but even as they are cuddling me and laughing I am looking forward to the quiet when they sleep and I can think for a moment without interruption. Just as I write this Matti appears, unable to sleep without Ville next to him. He curls around Ville and goes straight back to sleep. I once read that two things that make you happy can make you unhappy if you try to do them simultaneously. I try to remember this when I am trying to read when Matti and Anton want to involve me in a game. I should just take the happiness of the game and avoid the frustration of trying to do something that can wait. As I wrote this Anton cried out because his nappy had come loose and I stroked him back to sleep trying not to be impatient. And yet just taking happiness from the children and leaving aside other things is sometimes very hard. After having Neve I felt that coping with several more years of doing little else than childcare would actually leave my self-respect in tatters. Of course it should not, but being the facilitator that allows everyone else to develop can leave me feeling stagnant. A huge source of happiness for me is being able to talk about something I have read or seen to Ville. Another is the children's trust that I will indulge their want of me. The two are harder to combine than I thought they would be.

One of the best categories of happiness happens when you have achieved something or seen someone close to you push themselves and succeed. Today Ville is happy. It shocks me to see how different this spontaneous bubbling is from our daily decision to be grateful. He wrote to a friend today that he knows that this is one of the happiest moments of his life. I have noticed that when I am happy I tend to remember good moments, things going well and me as (reasonably!) courageous and successful. At lower moments the past seems to shift and the times of sadness worry and failure take the top recall positions. My history is rewritten by my current mood. And I forget so much so quickly. There have been so many moments with Ville and the children were I have thought 'I will never forget this moment' or 'I must never forget this moment' and I already cannot remember what I was hoping never to forget. The history of our family has been written so rapidly I want to capture some of it to keep. Neve's turn to break my train of thought and Ville is trying to stop the water pumping out of the washing machine reaching the wooden floor!

The happiness I found living alone in my tiny cottage in the Yorkshire Dales was quite different from the happiness I live in now. It was the happiness of a daily relationship with a beautiful landscape, of exercise leaving me exhausted and calm. This new happiness of love brings with it equal terror of loss. I might have once harboured a (very!) vaguely Buddhist notion that peace is best found by avoiding attachments but I have found my joy in having the courage to pin my happiness onto others and feel so attached that the edges of us blur. My heart and hope is, dangerously for me, walking outside my body in the form of Ville, Ruskin, Matti, Anton and Neve. Sickeningly sentimental and complete reality.

Since we brought Neve back to Turkey and the three children here are interacting with each other we feel as if our family has taken flight. We are not always at the centre of it any more, the children are developing relationships with each other independent of us. This makes me happy. I suppose its the beginning of the peace that will come when your role in their lives begins to retreat and you know that they will be ok without you. In the meantime I will reach out for all the happiness that is to be found in the skin of my family. I am bubblingly grateful!

Anton cuddling Neve
The beginnings of what we hope will be a life-long friendship.

Julia carrying Neve and Anton outside the Museum of Innocence
A moment of happiness outside the Museum of Innocence. Anton's cheek on my nose, two children in my arms.

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2 thoughts on “The Happiest Moment of My Life

  1. I know it can be just a less blatant way of blowing one's own trumpet to express admiration for what spouses and family-members do, but I loved this post darling. I think there is a kind of alienation from one's voice arising from writing publicly (well, it's us both reading and writing it at the moment, so that much for "public": It is like some leftist publications I have followed in having two same diameter concentric circles best illustrate the reader and writer groups). Your own voice is really strong in this. Darısı başımıza.

  2. This is a beautiful post, Julia.


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