“Happiness held is the seed; happiness shared is the flower.” John Harrigan
Have you ever seen a happy clam at high tide? Seriously, have you looked at any clams lately? If not, I can assure you they don’t look ecstatic. As I was putting this post together, I realized I had no idea about the origin of the popular, oft abbreviated saying; “Happy as a Clam.” A little digging produced an explanation: Clams are harder to catch at high-tide. To live is to be happy.
My uncle Jaja was always upbeat and full of life; even at 65 he stayed active and interested in life. He was a farmer and palm wine tapper who made friends easily. Whenever he left the village to visit his two grown sons in the big city, it seemed like a set of megawatt bulbs had burned out. Invariably, he would return and regale us with stories of the people he met in the city. He liked to call them “Characters.” Two stories came to mind for this exercise, and I’ll let the late Uncle Jaja speak for himself.
Uncle Jaja: Thank you my child! So, Last Easter when I went to the city, my sons and their wives fed me well. The food was so good, I had to take a stroll to the bar beach to work it off. As I walked on the beach, I noticed a very old man, with a basket of clams, hawking his wares while laughing and chatting with people walking by. He had a few teeth, wrinkly weathered skin, and grey hair, but with an ancient warrior’s gait. His eye caught mine and he called me over. I’m always happy to make a new friend so I went. After saying a traditional greeting, I called him Uncle.
“No, no man, call me Tabu! You hear me!? Anyway what brings you here?” he shouted as he shook my hand. ” The children.” I said. “Good. Buy them some clams!” He replied. Then he started laughing and cracking dirty jokes. I can’t even tell you. He was full of life and knew a lot about seafood. We had a great chat and after some time, he persuaded me to busy a few. I did and saying goodbye, headed back to my son, Oge’s, house.
Next day, I went to bar beach again and there he was, old man Tabu, carrying his basket of clams and dancing and laughing. This time I was curious to find out more. I went over, greeted him warmly and asked, “Uncle Tabu, you look so happy today. What’s your secret? ” He burst out laughing, even bending over to catch his breath. “Me?, he said, “I’m a happy man. I smoke five packs of cigarettes daily, drink 3 cases of whiskey and palm wine every week, eat meat 3 times a day and I don’t waste time with exercise. Instead, I hang out at the beach and make new friends like you! “
I was shocked! I’m 65 and can’t eat like that… How could this old man consume all that and still be standing? Unbelievable! I had to ask Uncle how he does it and advice him… I followed him to the edge of the water where he stood rinsing out a metal teacup. Tabu looked at me and said nothing. He seemed subdued, even a little reflective.
I pulled myself together and in a bold voice, said, “Uncle, why the mission to self-destruction? I’m 65 and hope to see more grand children. I’m sure you already have a few.” Uncle smiled and said nothing. So, I continued, “By the way, how old are you? I want to remember to be this happy when I’m older.” He looked at me and laughed. “No, I’m serious Uncle, please.” I said. Uncle Tabu looked me in the eye and said, ” Man, I’m twenty-six!” I was flabbergasted, but you know what? We can’t speculate without having all the facts … and he was living his version of happy. -UJ. Was he? More below