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Gladness Blooms

Hmmm...the happiest and saddest I've been in my life... Seems simple enough, but it's not. I was having trouble coming up with answers, so I asked around. If you're married, your wedding is most likely your happiest memory. That is, unless you have kids, whose births edge out the former for the prize. I'm not married, and I sure don't have children, so I'm back where I started. When I was attempting to come up with answers, they all seemed trivial next to giving birth or getting married. Could it have been a backpacking trip? What about it made me so happy? Maybe buying my guitar? No, no, too shallow. Why not that week in Sedona I spent with all of my family?

Last year at Thanksgiving, all of my family on my mom's side went to Sedona, Arizona. Two suites at the Hyatt were reserved, and we all hiked and ate and swam and played pool and just hung out together. This wasn't a "Oh, we gotta go see the in-laws" thing; our family is really close. We get together at my grandparents' house in Vista for birthdays and Christmas and all that. What could be happier than just having fun with people whose company you enjoy for a week?

I asked people about the saddest they have been. My uncle lost two fingers in a motorcycle accident. I really haven't had a genuinely sad occurrence in my life. I would say 9/11, except that sad isn't the right description for the emotions I felt. I was shocked, yes. I was scared, yes. But 9/11 was much too immense to be only sad. Sad isn't a big enough word for 9/11. If sad were the right word for 9/11, then it would have been the saddest thing in my life. I guess I'm lucky that I can't pinpoint a really sad thing in my life. -- Kyle Landau, Valley Middle School

I was watching My Fair Lady when my dog died. It happened during the scene in which Eliza is so overcome with grief that she breaks down and hurls Professor Higgins's slippers at his face. As she did so, I looked outside and noticed that my brothers and my mother had gathered around my dog, who had been asleep for some time, or so I thought. (He was fond of lying in the sun.) Eliza yelled as her heart broke, then I realized why my family stood solemnly around my dog. Jock was the best dog ever. Take Lassie, add a dash of Turner's Hooch, and throw in the charm of Wishbone, and then you have my pupper, Jock. I'd never had to deal with death before. An old lady who used to let me wear her hats when I was a toddler died when I was about five. My grandfather, who I saw once, died a few years later. It took the death of a drooling canine to make me sob in my brother's arms. Once I recovered, I learned an important lesson: people recover.

One day I woke up completely care-free and the happiest I can ever remember being. It wasn't long ago, and I hadn't planned on a special day...it just happened. Perhaps it had to do with the melodious morning birds perched outside my window, as if rehearsing just for me (like I was in the midst of a Disney movie); then again, maybe I finally appreciated the sound of my mother scurrying across her room to slap her alarm clock silly. Whatever it was, the day seemed to be wrapped in ribbon, waiting for me to open its packaging and expose all that that had been arranged in an array of opportunity.

I have led a fortunate life filled with happiness, but rarely has a single incident triggered joy. It seems my gladness blooms after I've spent much time working toward it: setting goals, achieving goals, helping others do the same, finding direction in life. Maybe that day was payday. Like other paydays, I tried to prolong the benefits, but couldn't. I thought that it would be great to stay so happy forever, or at least through the next day. I suppose that was a bit greedy, though, but wouldn't it be great if it were a taste of things to come? That's where I'm putting my money. Then again, instead of betting on future happiness, perhaps I should invest. -- Mary Lindquist, El Capitan H.S.

The best day of my life happened on a recent Saturday. My 15-year-old brother Gabriel and I went to a ropes course for some "youth training." Up until then, Gabriel and I shared the typical sibling relationship of constant fighting and mistrust. He's two years younger than me, and I resented him for taking up so much of our parents' attention. I felt I could never count on him. He would always try to win my approval, but he never got it because he constantly broke my trust. We went to this ropes course with the hope of improving our relationship. One of the tasks on the course was called "partners." We would climb 40-foot-tall trees opposite each other, then we would balance our way across a log connecting the two trees and switch places in the middle of the log without falling off.

I was scared to death of falling, even though we had safety harnesses on. Gabriel promised he would fall off the log before he let me fall. After I scaled the tree and made it to the midpoint of the log, I became petrified. Gabriel balanced his way across the narrow log to where I was. Gabriel reassured me. We held on to each other and locked hands. We leaned away from each other and turned. Then I lost my balance and cried hysterically, "I'm going to fall!"

Gabriel looked into my eyes and said, "Then I'm falling with you." He wrapped his arms around me as we fell off. No words can express the joy I felt upon discovering I could count on Gabriel.

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