I don't think we recognize the happy times while we're living them; or perhaps we think we'll always feel this way, and therefore, this feeling is normal. We don't even recognize the emotion as happiness. Maybe it's the absence of worry, jitteryness; an embrace of the big blue sky.
I've pinpointed 1985 as my "happy time". I was thirty, which is actually the perfect age, all things considered. My boys were at the fun age; the world opening up to them and me along for the ride. My job was perfect for my lifestyle. I worked second shift at a job I really liked -- interesting, yet only occasionally stressful. My mornings were my own. I even enjoyed setting up the ironing board in the living room, flipping my TV dial to MTV and pressing my hospital uniform, while this flashed on my screen in the background:
Even the music was optimistic in '85, and why not? We had a president who made us feel like everything was going to be okay. Our country was safe, tucked in. President Reagan had everything under control. And everyone felt it.
I drove to the local mall with my youngest son, and as I slid into the parking slot, this song came on the radio. Matt knew a few of the artists, but I pointed out some he didn't know; some he needed to know. We made a game of picking out the voices.
I had a savings account at the hospital credit union, and dutifully deposited twenty-five dollars out of each paycheck -- our vacation booty. Come July, I'd descend the steps to the hospital basement and acquire reams of traveler's checks and sign each one in the presence of the teller. Then, mid-month, we'd pack up our travel trailer with coolers full of New Coke, bologna, and Hostess treats and steer down Highway 83 toward Belle Fouche and ultimately, Rapid City and the exhale of the Rafter J Bar Ranch nestled within the tall pines.
The campground had an outdoor pool and my boys made a beeline for it before we'd even pounded the camper stakes into the ground. In the setting sun, an Oglala brave would dance in full Lakota regalia as we tourists sat, cross-legged, in the tall prairie grass. At sunrise the next morning, we'd wind along the curvy two-lane logging road on our twelve-mile trip to the tourist town of Keystone so I could buy a Black Hills gold ring and my kids could ride the helicopter for a close-up view of Mount Rushmore.
1985 was the year of bands that have never been heard from since, but their hits are so iconic, it doesn't matter.
And a few who've stood the test of time:
Television was what it always was. Shows were "good" because we had nothing to compare them to. I watched Kate and Allie and Newhart and Family Ties. There was, however, one program that offered a glimpse of how good TV could be. It was on NBC on Wednesday nights, and since I worked second shift, I had to utilize my trusty VCR, because I was not about to miss it. Maybe working in a hospital made the show more special to me, but in reality, it was just a damn good show:
"Okay, smart guy, who's the president in 1985?"
"Ronald Reagan? Is Jerry Lewis Vice President?"
The eighties were the most fun period for movies. This classic was released -- guess when? 1985.
The country was optimistic; I was optimistic.
I was happy.