Goolie Finds Happiness

By Vivian Bartholomew

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    “Breakfast is ready,” Goolie informed her sister as she fastened her long skirt. “Cinnamon harvest begins this morning.”

    “You don’t have to remind me,” Sirimova said crossly as she fussed with her hair. “I wish I had found a job in Colombo so I would never have to harvest cinnamon again.”

    A sadness filled Goolie. “Cinnamon bark from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is enjoyed by people around the world!” she said feelingly.

    “But the work is too hard,” Sirimova protested.

    “Hard work has not hurt us,” Goolie argued. “I love living here.”

    Sirimova scoffed. “When you are as old as I am, you will feel differently about living in an obscure village.”

    The thought frightened Goolie. “I love our village,” she repeated quietly. Then she quickly finished her breakfast rice.

    When there was no school, Goolie could spend the entire day harvesting cinnamon bark. She paused for a breath of fresh air on the veranda of their sturdy house Father had built. The magic of the morning sent happiness tingling through her. She loved the banyon, calamander, and satinwood trees growing among the palms surrounding their house. This morning the first rays of golden sunlight glimmered off shiny leaves everywhere.

    How can Sirimova bear to leave such aparadise? Goolie wondered.

    Goolie got her tools and hurried down the path to their cinnamon trees. She cut three-year-old shoots about the thickness of a walking stick. Folding her long skirt about her legs, she squatted beside the pile in the peeling area. With her gonakokatha (semicircular blade), she began scraping her first stick, savoring the cinnamony smell. Then she rubbed it up and down with her urachi (brass rod) to loosen the bark. With her talana kokatha (knife), she split the bark the length of the stick and peeled it.

    “Perfect!” Goolie exclaimed, proud that she hadn’t forgotten her skills from last year’s harvest. With nimble fingers, she worked swiftly, telescoping the peels inside one another to form a quill. These would remain in the drying area four or five days. Then the quills would be tightened by rolling them on a board before further drying.

    Sirimova finally arrived, frowning. The bark split as she attempted to peel her first shoot. “Nothing is going right this morning,” she complained.

    “It is not the morning,” Goolie said. “It is you who does not feel happy. Grandfather says happiness is a state of mind.”

    “You have been listening to Grandfather too much,” Sirimova accused. “Happiness is having things too.”

    “We have all we need,” Goolie pointed out.

    “I want more than necessities!” Sirimova declared. “Grandfather is old. He does not understand.”

    “You must not speak of Grandfather that way,” Goolie warned. “He loves us. He is happy serving the people of our village, in sickness and in health. And everyone takes their problems to him because he is so wise.”

    Sirimova shrugged. “Oh, I love Grandfather, but the world has changed since he was young. Now there are radios and motorcars and movies, and we cannot afford any of these.”

    “Father has promised us a piece of fine jewelry when the cinnamon harvest is finished,” Goolie reminded her.

    Sirimova tossed her head. “I want many pieces of fine jewelry!”

    Goolie thought of Grandfather, her parents, and her young brothers and sister. Everyone was happy except Sirimova. How can I bring happiness to her? she puzzled.

    That evening, Goolie went to see Grandfather.

    “Your face, my child, mirrors that all is not well,” the old man perceived. “Is it of the heart or of the body?”

    Goolie told him of Sirimova’s unhappiness. “It makes me very sad,” she said.

    Grandfather took Goolie’s hand in his wrinkled, leathery ones. His eyes shone with wisdom gathered over many years. “Happiness cannot be bought with money. One can develop it only by giving of oneself.”

    “But how can I help Sirimova understand, Grandfather?”

    “We cannot choose happiness for another,” the old man counseled wisely. “We can only love another.”

    Goolie thought long about this. Then she said, “Thank you, Grandfather.”

    In spite of everyone loving Sirimova, her unhappiness increased as the cinnamon harvest progressed. Then in late July a letter came informing her of a job as a maid in a new hotel in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.

    Mother smiled bravely through her tears as Sirimova danced into her arms. Goolie saw Father swallow hard. “This calls for a celebration,” he declared. “We shall go to the botique (gift shop) this very day for a piece of fine jewelry.”

    “Thank you, Father,” Sirimova cried. “This is the happiest day of my life.”

    Goolie escaped to the veranda. “This is the saddest day for me,” she whispered, tears spilling from her eyes. “Our family will never be complete again. Happiness is gone from my life.”

    “Come, Goolie,” Father urged. “You have worked hard. You shall choose a piece of jewelry also.”

    “The harvest is only half over,” Goolie protested. “I can wait.”

    But Father insisted she go with them.

    Goolie’s thoughts were sad as they walked to the botique.

    After Sirimova had chosen a necklace, Goolie made her choice.

    “You have chosen earrings that match my necklace!” Sirimova exclaimed. “I wish I …”

    “Are they not a bit old for you, Goolie?” Father asked kindly.

    “They are what I want,” Goolie insisted.

    That night before going to sleep, Goolie looked at her earrings and whispered, “They are so beautiful.”

    At dawn the next morning, Goolie gathered small pieces of dried cinnamon bark. She packaged her new earrings with some of the fragrant bark before time for her morning chores.

    After breakfast, Father brought the bullock cart, and Sirimova put her things into it.

    It was a tearful family good-bye. Before Sirimova climbed into the cart beside father, Goolie hugged her sister. “I shall miss you,” she said, trying hard to hold back the tears.

    “I shall miss you, too, little sister,” Sirimova said.

    Goolie pressed her gift into Sirimova’s hand.

    “What is this?” Sirimova asked.

    “It is my surprise for you,” Goolie replied. “Do not open it until you get to Colombo.”

    “Thank you,” Sirimova said, giving her an extra hug.

    “I love you,” Goolie called as the cart lumbered away. And strangely her heart seemed to overflow with happiness.

    Have I proved Grandfather’s wisdom—that happiness is found in giving? she pondered.

    Then almost as though she were answering her own question, Goolie smiled happily as she waved good-bye.

    Illustrated by Paul Mann