The Simplest Kind of Happy

“We have to go,” I say to my sister as I wait by the garage door.

“Coming!” she shouts back from her room upstairs.

It was a Thursday and, as always, we were running late to the bowling league we joined with our family.

“Did you eat anything?” I ask as she comes down the stairs pulling on a jacket.

“No,” she says with a frown.

I look in the refrigerator and notice the leftover tortillas from the previous day’s lunch.

“Do you want a cinnamon stick?”

Her eyes light up and she nods before sitting down in the computer chair we are doubling as a 5th seat at the dining room table to tie her shoes. I open the bag, immediately making a show of what the smell of the restaurant’s homemade flour tortillas do to my senses.

“Mmmmmmmmm”

I grab a skillet from the cabinet and turn on the stove, setting off the familiar series of clicks before the flame finally lights. In a small bowl, I mix together sugar and cinnamon, relying solely on my instinct and memories of my mom in the kitchen, before determining I have the perfect mix of brown and white morsels.

“We only have 3 tortillas left,” my sister says as she walks in. “Let’s make all of them. One for each of us and then we’ll split the last one.”

“Deal,” I reply, throwing the first tortilla onto the heated skillet.

Once they are thoroughly heated, I toss each tortilla onto a plate where my sister butters them, sprinkles them with cinnamon sugar, and rolls them up like taquitos. After putting the final touches on the third one, she grabs a few paper towels, and stacks the—self-named—cinnamon sticks in her hands before throwing her purse over her shoulder and leading the way to the back door.

“Alright, we’re ready, let’s go!”

Once in the driver’s seat, I click the button for the garage door and anxiously reach for one of our creations before turning the keys in the ignition.

“Mmmmmmmm,” we agree as the radio fades in.

I buckle my seatbelt, turn right onto the main street and take another bite.

“Oh, I love this song!” my sister says, turning up the volume.

I listen for familiarity and smile when I recognize it is “Roses” by The Chainsmokers.

“It’s so nice outside, let’s roll the windows down.”

As the song plays, we nod along. And while we don’t quite know the words, the melody is addicting and we laugh as we note our identical movements to each beat. At a red light, the chorus comes and we toss our heads around, letting the song move through us into the open air. I take another bite of my cinnamon stick and look out the window at the clear blue sky.

“I’m just so…content right now,” I say, instantly a little embarrassed but also aware of my complete honesty.

My sister looks over at me smiling.

“You know, I was just thinking the same thing….”

It was a simple, seemingly unmemorable moment, and yet it will forever be engrained in my memory. It was a moment when everything, if only temporarily, felt good, right, and peaceful. Unhindered by the worries of the world or the expectations of myself.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy,” and in that moment, we were undeniably so. It was a special kind of happy. A previously unlocked level of contentment, which only the two of us will ever truly understand. Cinnamon-stick-with-the-windows-down-content we now call it. And even in the most stressful moments I can picture it. The red light, the faint breeze, the warm cinnamon sugar dancing on my tongue. The feeling buzzes through me and I am reminded of what happiness feels like in its simplest form, and how taking the time to notice it can turn the most unexpected moments into something extraordinary.

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