Small Things of Joy

According to a Finnish proverb, “if sauna, tar and booze don’t cure the disease, it’ll kill you”. I’ve never had to try all three to feel better, so I’ve always simply assumed it to be true, which is why I keep spreading the words of wisdom to Wife, and Son and Daughter.

Fortunately, those three aren’t at the top of the list of cures in our household. Fortunately, because we haven’t been sick very often, and because I’m not sure how to use tar as medicine.

Anyway, at the first signs of a cold I turn to another holy trinity.

Our store.

When I was ten, going on eleven and home from school, I was home alone. Well, with our dog and our TV. Our dog was great company, TV not as much since there was nothing on during daytime, and while we did have a video recorder, there were no movies on video yet. So I read, and chatted with the dog.

Some time during the day, Dad would come in to check up on me, and to make sure everything was fine. And with him, he’d always have orange soda, bananas, and a new comic book, most often a Donald Duck one.

That was enough to make me feel better, but just to be on the safe side, Dad sometimes also brought some chocolate. He’d get in, see that I was fine, and then go back to work.

One time, when I was ten, going on eleven, the soda and the comic book and the bananas got me up on my feet in no time, and I was lucky because the cross-country skiing world championships were on TV. I sat on the couch with a pad and a pencil, and two stopwatches on the coffee table, ready for me to take notes of the skiers split times as soon as the race got under way.

Juha Mieto was Finland’s big hope and my favorite as well, simply because he didn’t wear gloves when he skied. I sat there cheering for Mieto, when I suddenly got a little hungry. We lived across the street from a grocery store so I decided to get something to eat. I immediately also decided what I’d get.

Lihapiirakka, the Finnish meat pie, a two-pack. I found some loose change in Dad’s jacket pockets and ran down to the store. That was our deal. If I needed something, I could check his pockets for change. For some reason, he always had some loose change in his jacket pockets. I still don’t know anybody else who keeps change in his pockets.

I held the coins in my pocket, and with the key on a string around my neck, skipped down the stairs. It didn’t feel right to watch cross-country skiing and then be out and about like that, when I was supposed to be sick, but I figured it’d only take me three minutes to run to the store, get the pies and run back.

I ran into the store, and picked up a two-pack from the fridge, and then ran to the checkout line. And there, in front of me was the mother of a classmate of mine.

“Busted,” I said to myself.

She placed her items on the belt, and as she put the basket down, she saw me.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello,” I said. “I live in the house over there and I just ran down to get some pies but I’m really sick so I should be at home and I will be in a second, but I just needed to get something to eat, because I have already eaten the food that my parents left me, and….”

“I see,” she said, and smiled. Then she paid for her groceries, and went home.

I ran home with my pies, and cursed myself for being so stupid, and so greedy and weak, because now my hunger for meat pies had got me into trouble. Now the word was out. Surely everybody would now think that I had skipped school to watch Juha Mieto.

I went to school the next day, but nobody said anything.

Now I’m a Dad with a son that’s ten, going on eleven, and who just happened to be sick today. Since I work from home, having a sick child at home doesn’t change things that much. Especially with a ten-year-old who can entertain himself with Minecraft and books and movies.

Things have changed.

However, there are some things I try to keep the same, so around noon, I left Son home alone to go the gym. I was going to be out for about an hour, and I knew Son was going to be fine, but I was happy not to run into anybody I know all the same.

On my way home, I thought of Son, and how he was big enough to be just fine home alone, like I had been. I decided to get him the magic medicine: the soda, bananas, and a comic book.

I knew we had raspberry soda in the fridge, and that Son would enjoy the pancakes I had promised to make him but I did need a comic book. I ran over the street, and hopped over the ditch, and ran into the gas station that was the closest store.

I picked up a Donald Duck from the stand, paid for it, and walked back towards the main street when I took a look at the cover. The name of the pocket book was “Small Things of Joy.”

And I thought it was perfect for the occasion.

So did Son.

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