Advice · Life · mid-life

When Do I Get My Red Rubber Ball?

Yesterday, I stopped by the Dollar General on the way home from work. Why? Cheap coloring books my wife could use as quilting patterns. Smart, no? But that’s not the point of this thought. It was the five-year-old girl with her mother, checking out ahead of me, that really got me thinking.

The child was proudly holding a 10-inch red ball. I think it had some cartoon character on it, maybe Dora the Explorer. She was so elated that mommy was buying her that ball. She repeatedly expressed her appreciation. For a moment, she had me convinced that $2.50 could buy happiness. I wanted to go back and buy a ball.

I wanted to go further back and be that innocent, to be in a place where something as simple as a red ball could make me that happy. It was a moment of clarity and confusion. It was a moment where my heart knew exactly how that little girl felt. In that same moment, my head couldn’t understand why I wasn’t as jubilant as that child. After all, I’m in the prime of my life. I’m earning more money than I ever have. My kids are grown and sort of out of the house. I have a wife whom I love and loves me more than grits. I have two little Chihuahuas who think me walking through the door is grander than the sunrise. The bank is letting me live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood. The bank even lets me park a new car in the driveway. My yard is full of colorful flowers that I can point to and say, “I did that.” Thanks to years of hard work and steady insurance payments, I even have a new roof over my head. But somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to enjoy a simple red rubber ball.

Sure that little girl may lose her ball tomorrow. She may forget about it in a week, but for a few hours yesterday, that 10-inch sphere made her the happiest girl on the planet. When do I get my red rubber ball? When do I get that second chance at innocence? Is there a switch in my brain I can throw to tell my heart it’s time to be happy again? I know money can’t buy happiness, but I’m seriously considering taking $2.50 to the Dollar General tomorrow just to buy a ball. I’ll bounce it off my head a few times and see if that switch flips.

Or maybe, I’ll just be grateful for what I have. That was a pretty good list I just wrote. For someone, any one of those things would be their red ball. I’m going to go pet my wife and kiss my dogs.


17 thoughts on “When Do I Get My Red Rubber Ball?

  1. I hope you find your red rubber ball. I’ve always been very easy to please (something my husband says he thanks God for daily…lol) so little things really do make me happy. Sometimes we do have to be like little children and see the best in what we have.

  2. It’s funny. We, as the adults, are suppose to do the teaching, yet I’m amazed how many lessons I learn from my kids. Being the mom of two young girls helps me remember how to appreciate the little things daily.

    Give in to the urge. Go buy that ball, Randy!

  3. This got me thinking – for so many reasons. Lately, I’ve been thinking about mortality (as those over 50 so often do) and what I want to achieve in life. But I remember long summer days when I woke up each morning and saw each day as a potential new adventure. Who knew what I’d find in the creek or what would be showing at the Saturday matinee (yes, I’m dating myself but Saturday movies for kids were a big deal back then).

    So much of life was pure joy, with no thought about the future. My parents? I couldn’t imagine them not being around. Now, one is gone and the other is old and in need of care. Every summer was just a time of pure freedom and there didn’t seem to be so many choices – no cable, no computers, no Iphones, etc.

    Finally, that red rubber ball resonates with me because of a son we adopted. He was 5 years old at the time. All he wanted to have was a ball of his own, since he rarely got to use the ones at the orphanage. The older boys got those first. So when he got there, he literally bounced a ball ALL day long, whether kicking it in the backyard or even in the house. Soccer became a passion and he was a strong athlete.

    He has moved on to other interests but I still remember the pure bliss he experienced when he got his first, brand new ball of his own. He wouldn’t let it out of his sight!

  4. That is one of the best blog posts I have read in a long time! Thanks, Randy, for making me appreciate the things I do have and making me want to go get a red ball… actually I was always fond of the super bouncy balls, maybe I’ll get one of them ;)

  5. Randy, you got it all. You worked hard to get all those things in life. And by the looks of it, you’re also blessed with an amazing family. And “good on ye” as they say over here.

    Your post reminded me of the time when we were poor as church mice. When I couldn’t buy even a “red ball” for our son. He had a sandpit and Dinkey Toys. I asked him about that time later, when he was an adult and if he’d felt if he’d missed out on not having all the stuff other kids had, like PC’s.

    Son looked at me with a surprised look on his face. No, he assured me, he’d had the bestchildhood any kid could wish for and the best parents in the world.

    Happiness? Sometimes it’s just a matter of having a sandpit or a red ball and being surrounded by love.

  6. Aww! This post made my heart happy. My kids are gone for an entire month, and I miss them already. That little girl in your story could have been either one of my children. Sometimes $2.50 really does make all the difference.

      1. Ah, but I’m happy when I’m writing the articles that make me happiest (well, okay, not the Bernard Madoff one, didn’t make me happy) usually are seen as worth payment by others. Based on the response you got here, I still think this deserves a wider audience.

    1. Well, I Twittered it anyway. It made my mother cry (you know, odd little happy tears) So I Twittered it.

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