Happy is a Razor
By Jan Wilberg on March 20, 2014
The tiny box of razor blades was right where I knew it would be, buried on the second shelf of the linen closet, amidst hotel bottles of shampoo and bubble packs of cold medicine. It was on my walk that it came to me. All the Facebook postings about International Happiness Day had me thinking about a razor.
In the cabinet above the porcelain sink in my grandmother's upstairs bathroom, a box of razor blades, much like the one in my linen closet, sat on the shelf next to my grandfather's heavy black razor, his shaving brush parked for the past twenty years atop the round bar of shaving soap in a white dish, a blue stripe around it, a sight so familiar to me from looking so many dozens of times that I could draw it now down to the last bristle.
I don't know and I never asked if my grandmother visited the bathroom cabinet to look at her late husband's shaving equipment. She would have thought it very queer for me to make a special trip upstairs to look at it since she didn't know it was only one of many rituals I observed at her house. I had to look out the front bedroom windows at the park across the street and inspect the brushes and mirrors laid out on the chest of drawers. Everything was perfect in the bedroom, clean and dusted, although she slept downstairs in what had been their library, leaving their upstairs bedroom as if waiting for an important guest. To my knowledge, no one else ever slept in their bed.
It wasn't morbid in the least. There wasn't a shrine-like quality to any of my grandmother's house. Still, it was a house that had stopped. Doors never slammed. Curtains never blew in the wind. But she was comfortable in her house and so was I. It was peaceful and quiet. It just wasn't happy.
We expect to be happy. We're told that happiness is possible if we set our minds to it. The trick to being happy is to live in the present, to enjoy every moment and not regret the past or worry about the future. I wonder.
Maybe it's enough to expect to be comfortable or just comforted. Maybe it's enough, more than enough, to have been happy, along the lines of it being better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all. In my grandmother's life, maybe it was enough that she had the razor in the upstairs bathroom cabinet and that she could remember the days when the shaving brush would have been left wet on the rim of the sink, her husband rushing to get dressed and to the lumberyard to open up for business. Maybe she visited the cabinet and heard in her mind her daughters talking in their bedroom down the hall about who would borrow whose new blouse or the phone ringing downstairs, the grocery calling to tell her the delivery boy was on his way.
Maybe it was enough that she could remember being happy. Maybe she didn't have to be happy every day. Maybe that was just too much.