When I was a little girl, I dreamt of having a mansion with tall white pillars, servants to wait on me hand and foot, and an endless supply of money to travel whenever and wherever my heart desired.  It was a silly dream, but who hasn’t sat and wondered to themselves what life would be like if they had all of the money in the world?  You imagine how much easier your life would be and how much happier you think you would be if you had the ability to buy anything you wanted.  Because having lots of money and lots of things is a sure fire way to find happiness, right?

My mother grew up in a wealthy family; they weren’t millionaires by any means, but my mother’s parents definitely had money to spare and they didn’t mind spreading their money around.  For my mother, this meant that anything that she wanted, she got.  Ponies, trips, clothes, lobster dinners – you name it – my mother got every bit of it without ever having to lift a finger or spend a penny of her own money.

Mom grew up with a silver spoon in her mouth and one would expect that she would marry rich in order to continue her affluent lifestyle, but she didn’t.  She has gone through a slew of husbands, all of whom make a living wage and could make Mom and a family comfortable, but none of them could give Mom the life she truly wanted and the life that she was accustomed to living.  The life that made her “happy”.

And Mom made it known to all of us on a nightly basis just how miserable she was and how worthless her husband was because she couldn’t live the life she wanted.  If it wasn’t for her children and her worthless husband, she could have any man she wanted and have the life and all of the “things” that she believed made her truly happy.  She took much of her aggression and frustration out on me, blaming me for being born to her at such a young age and ruining her chances at the life she always wanted and “deserved”.

But if Mom really wanted something, she was going to get it and there was no way to stop her.  And this meant that every single time we went out to a grocery store, a mall, or even a pet store, Mom was going to steal something that she felt entitled to.  Nothing was too big or too small for Mom to shoplift; if she spotted it and wanted it, then it was going in her purse, under her jacket, or sometimes, just walked right out the front door.  I wasn’t even twelve years old when Mom got me my first “big purse”.  The big, empty, brown purse that Mom would force me to take on every shopping trip so she could fill it with every trinket or outfit that she ever wanted.  I couldn’t stop her and I couldn’t refuse to participate – if I didn’t do as Mom asked, I would pay for it later.

And after a long day of shoplifting, ducking behind clothing racks, and sneaking out of front doors past security, you would think that Mom would be ecstatic and finally be happy for once in her life when her “fruits of her labor” were laid out in front of her.  But it was quite the opposite, because it was never enough for her.  No matter how many “things” Mom stole, there was always something better that she wanted and felt that she deserved.  There was always a more expensive outfit, a shinier ring, or a more expensive cut of meat that caught her eye as she was leaving a store; so by the time Mom got home, she was already disappointed and upset that she shoplifted such a substandard item.

But while Mom was sitting in the living room, pouting about the items she stole, she was ignoring the very things that could have made her happy if she would have just given us the chance.  She was ignoring her two daughters who just wanted quality time with their mother.  She was ignoring a husband who worked as hard as he could to just put food on the table and did his best to make her happy.  Happiness was staring at her in the face and she chose to ignore it, because she believed money and things would make her feel fulfilled.  Instead of looking at her family and realizing how lucky she was to have two healthy children and a husband who loved her and was loyal to her, she looked at us as a burden.

You can’t put a price on happiness.  Happiness is not having the best phone, the newest shoes, or the most expensive car.  Happiness is not the size of your bank account or how many square feet you live in.  What is happiness to me?  Happiness to me is seeing the world through the eyes of my children and having the honor of helping them grow into young men.  Happiness is spinning around in circles in the warm, spring rain.  Happiness is dangling my feet off of an old, worn dock and fishing for giant catfish.  Happiness is everywhere.

The best things in life are free.