>Our daughter Julie spent her toddler days with us in married student housing at the university where my husband was attending law school. Nothing enthralled her more than flushing random objects down the toilet. Almost daily I would hear the “whoosh” and run to the bathroom to find Julie standing next to the bowl. Hands folded across her belly in satisfaction, she would watch as a washcloth or small toy circled slowly out of sight. Pencils, a flashlight, the utility bill, Christmas ornaments, nightlights. Whatever Julie laid her busy, dimpled hands on eventually made its way down that wondrous waterslide. And then, inevitably, things backed up.
So, I called University Housing maintenance–a lot. I had the number memorized and the plumbing guy knew me by name. The routine never varied. Dale would arrive in his blue truck and head straight for the bathroom. He could generally snake his magic tool down the toilet and extract the soggy item in minutes. Now and then, the snake did not suffice. Mighty Dale would unbolt the toilet from the floor and carry it out the front door. Tipping it upside down he jiggled until something rolled out. One day he picked up a rubber ducky that had tumbled from the commode and put it in my hand. “Life is deluxe!” he muttered crustily as he heaved the potty back into the house. It made me chuckle to hear that choice bit of acerbity from the mouth of a man cradling a privy in his arms. “Life is deluxe,” I repeated like an ‘Amen.’
For some months I found Dale’s words springing to mind in ironic situations or when things went sour. “Life is deluxe,” I would grumble to myself with more aggravation than I actually felt. Over time, however, I noticed that Dale’s quirky phrase had shifted in my lexicon. Sarcasm didn’t suit. My soul knew better. Life IS deluxe. Truly. Capital ‘D’ deluxe. Delicious. Glorious. Splendid. Ravishing. Deluxe.
Calla lilies spring up along my fence every March. Complete strangers stop in the snow to help me to my feet after a slip. Cool water makes never-ending music over smooth rocks. The slender apple tree that Bob planted in our yard bends and barely supports the fist-sized fruit that hangs from its branches. Acne abates. Sweet juice drips down my chin from a crimson-hearted strawberry. Our children pile into our bed on Saturday mornings and make us laugh until our stomachs hurt. Julie gives birth. Baby Lydia curls her padded palm around my finger and smiles as if she holds heaven in her hand. My dad opens his clear hazel eyes one last time. Expending all that’s left of life in him, he locks Mom in his gaze and mouths the words “I love you” before he slips away. I lie on my back and cry round real tears that roll into my ears and wash me clean. Deluxe indeed.
I believe tenaciously in the goodness of life. Daily I marvel at the exquisite complexity of our human experience–the profound, painful, delirious, heartbreaking, exhausting, exhilarating adventure we share. People move me. Moments change me. What surprise will drift to me on the back of a breeze? When I step over the edge into a free-fall, what updraft will lift me and gently bear my weight? What blows my way today on winds unexpected?
Copyright 2010 Jerie Jacobs