Katie Scarvey: What makes us happy?

  • Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:01 a.m.
Jewell realizes that the welcoming “strangers” at the hotel were actually Bob and Sandy Ricks.
Jewell realizes that the welcoming “strangers” at the hotel were actually Bob and Sandy Ricks.

Traveling has the potential of bringing us both transcendent joy and bitter disappointment, and Dr. Jewell Mayberry has experienced both the highs and lows. You might recall reading in the Post a few years ago about her unusual and stressful experience of being quarantined in China because of a flu outbreak.

Jewell’s recent, magical trip to France with her husband, Dr. David Mayberry, provides a wonderful counterpoint. Apparently, April in Paris is all it’s cracked up to be.


I saw your Facebook post, “Tell me what’s making you happy this week” at the most serendipitous moment.

Dave and I had just returned from a visit to the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian “love lock” bridge in Paris where couples place their locks on the bridge and throw the keys into the Seine, “guaranteeing” eternal love.

Though Dave and I have been married 37 years, we added our lock to the many, many thousands on the bridge; however, what began as a silly gesture instead became a most significant moment and memory that I will cherish forever.

As we tossed our keys into the river and kissed, the brilliant sun was setting behind the Eiffel Tower on one side, exactly as the gigantic full moon was rising above Notre Dame on the other. It seemed almost miraculous, too beautiful to comprehend, and I told Dave, “I have never been happier in my life.”

But it wasn’t just being in Paris in April that made me happy, I realized. It was all of the blessings in my life that had aligned to make this moment possible.

First, Dave had surprised me with the trip as a 60th birthday gift. Turning 60 had been a source of apprehension for me because neither of my parents had lived to see that age, plus I had already survived a couple of tough cancer bouts, so I wasn’t sure I would either.

The thoughtfulness and love Dave put into planning every detail of the trip (and managing to hide it from me for months) were indicative of the same qualities he has brought to our marriage all these years.

The piece de resistance was that our close friends and traveling buddies, Bob and Sandy Ricks from Burlington, were there to share this time with us. They were not going to be able to make this trip, or so I was told; however, in collusion with Dave, they made their own plans and surprised me when we arrived at our hotel last week. Dressed as French mimes, they were waiting in the hotel lobby at 6 a.m., as we straggled in from an overnight flight, holding a “Happy Birthday Jewell” sign. I laughed and thought the hotel had gone overboard with its welcome. It took many embarrassing, long seconds to realize that these people looked familiar and then finally realize who they were. Best-kept and best-executed surprise ever!

So, surrounded by sunset and moonrise in the middle of the Seine, I was happy to be in Paris in April. I was healthy enough to be having new adventures. I was with the husband of my life and my dreams. I was with dear friends who had expended great effort to be a part of this special event.

Reading Jewell’s account of how hard David worked to surprise her made me remember this passage from “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert: “People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”

What’s making you happy? Tell me at salposthappy@gmail.com

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