Miles of Smiles

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Who would ever think that one can experience a life changing moment by merely sitting in a couch?

Watching the 2018 movie, “Pope Francis Man of His Word,” gave me such an experience. It was at the movie’s end when Pope Francis declares his true confession: “I pray every day for two things : To smile and to have a sense of humor.”

Smile — it can cost from nothing to millions of dollars. Either way, it’s a win-win fashion statement if one chooses to wear it.

I got a recent email from Darlene, daughter of Phillip Lucas, our very first friend whom I met together with his wife, Lumen, in 1982 as a new immigrant. She had attached two photos of her dad marking his death at age 105. Interestingly, one picture was labeled “Dad’s Classic Smile” and the other, “Dad’s Million Dollar Smile” Though Philip’s smile was worth its weight in gold, it must not have cost him a single dime.

School pictures require payment with the pro photographer making profit out of the student’s free smile, with just a click. So much so with investors who set up photo booths at events for guests to pose, smile and stare at the dot within five second countdowns.

The unfading enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa is classic. Currently costs $837 million in insurance value though, in reality, this Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece is un-insurable as it is irreplaceable. Mona Lisa is the inescapable Renaissance painting on the course outline I had taught for 12 years. Not until 1985 did I see the painting before my very eyes at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

In 1958, transcending into the world of music, was the popular song, “A Certain Smile.” Lifetime Grammy Achievement awardee, Johnny Mathis, became a household name with many impersonators imitating his Certain Smile. I was one lucky fan who made it to his sold out concert at the Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines in 1960.

“Suddenly you know why your heart sings — when a certain face leads an unsuspecting heart on a merry chase.” Six years later, the lyrics resonated in my nostalgic mind when I met the boy in college whom I eventually married.

Icon singer Nat King Cole, of over a hundred songs, popular for his song, “Smile:” “that even through fear and sorrow when you smile, you’ll find that life is still worthwhile.”

I, too, was one of hundreds of fans who would not miss Nat King Cole for the world when he performed live at the same venue in Manila in 1961.

A smile can be attractive, infectious…or non infectious to one’s health. Studies show a smile can lower one’s blood pressure, lessen pain, strengthen one’s immune system, and relieve stress. Even the dentist uses images of healthy teeth through a smile to advertise a dental product.

With apologies to those who have lost their teeth for one reason or another, my best friend, Victoria from Virginia battling with cancer, had lost her tooth from chemo treatment; nonetheless, she smiles and bears it. She says, “My smile has generated virtues of love and compassion from others who attend to me during my 48-hour infusion and more.”

Myself, while pregnant with my youngest child, partially dislodged my front tooth from a fall on the driveway after the rain. Pushing back the displaced tooth, I managed smiling with it for several years until the doctor prescribed a root canal to save it. To this date, I can smile with it, unconscious of its history.

My mom smiled through 11 years of confinement in a rehabilitation hospital at Laguna Honda in San Francisco from 1987 to 1999. Her massive stroke resulted in aphasia, but smiles and laughter became her signature form of communication.

I would drive or fly from LA to visit Mom. In one of those visits, unaware that I had a smile on my face as I walked eagerly through rows of beds in Mom’s ward, a voice from one of the patients, called out: “Your smile erases a multitude of sins!” I was astounded and puzzled by the remark but it was like finding a treasure in a smile.

What children would do at school to earn a smiley sticker as a reward. The yellow emoticon in the 80’s has evolved into a myriad of emojis displaying reactions on FB, in texting, posting positivity or negativity.

Smiles have existed through generations way back in the time of King David. In Psalm 39:13, "Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again Before I depart and am no more." David asks God to look away from his sin and forgive him, for strength that he may be prepared for the next life.

Mindful of King David’s pearls of wisdom, I too plead for God’s mercy that I may have miles of smiles before I sleep.

Maria L. Garcia is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

Maria L. Garcia