The Face of Joy

My Mom and Me (Mother's Day 1978)
My Mom and Me (Mother’s Day 1978)

I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed pure joy—which, I hasten to add, is not the same thing as pleasure, ecstasy, satisfaction, contentment, or happiness. I was eight-years-old, walking home from Cecil Newman Elementary School, along Airlie Street (in Ville de LaSalle). The four of us lived in one of those crappy apartment buildings on Airlie: the one across from the grocery store, the one with the over-priced hamburger meat. As I neared the window to our basement apartment, I heard the familiar sound of my mom’s sweet folk-singer’s voice. She was wearing bright yellow gloves, doing the dishes in the sink, and singing Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” (1972). I recall thinking—strange as it may sound—that if you could hear the smell of freshly baked bread, it would sound like this. Just like this. My mother’s voice was mesmerizing, delightful, soulful, and enchanting. And I must have lay there—for at least ten minutes—on my belly, in front of that basement window, quietly listening to her sing—because she started and finished, two more songs, before she noticed me.

This much I can tell you about joy: it doesn’t come from outside of you; it doesn’t come in a box, a compliment, a chocolate, a glass of merlot, or a man; it can’t be bought, stolen, or sold. Joy comes from the inside: it bubbles up from within you like a secret or a spring; it’s sacred, spontaneous, and shrouded in mystery. I’ll never forget how unspeakably beautiful she looked. This, thought I, is what our Lord’s face must have looked like during the Transfiguration! Joy filled her pretty little hippie face with something sublime, innocent, profoundly private, and divine.

—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)

About John Faithful Hamer

John Faithful Hamer is a college professor who still can't swim, drive, or pay his bills on time. His sense of direction is notoriously unreliable, yet he'd love to tell you where to go. His lack of practical skills is astounding, and his inability to fix things is renowned, yet he'd love to tell you what to do. His mismanagement of time is legendary, as is his inability to remember appointments, yet he fancies himself a philosopher and would love to tell you how to live. He wouldn't survive in a state of nature, of that we can be sure; but he's doing quite well in the big city, which has always been a refuge for the ridiculous, a haven for the helpless, and a friend to the frivolous.

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