Life has a way of reminding you that, at one point in your life, it was really good to you. I was living in routine when an ad from “Santa’s Wonderland” appeared in my email. Seeing the red and white lettering brought back a really good memory for me. It was only seven months ago, yet it feels like another lifetime. It was one of the rare moments I actually got a woman to genuinely smile.
I’m not talking about the kind of smile that is half-hearted or staged. It is not the smile that is awkward and nervous. It is not the kind of smile that is made to be polite. It isn’t even the kind of smile that is brought about from making a woman laugh. It is the kind of smile that peels back the adulthood and reveals the inner child. Two very distinct moments come to mind when remembering genuine smiles from women. I remember them with fondness.
The first moment, as mentioned above, came when I took a woman I love to Santa’s Wonderland in College Station, TX. It wasn’t a planned thing. We were actually in the area for another event, but on the way back from our visit, she saw the amusement park from the highway and went to inquire about it. The Christmas lights hadn’t even come on and the entry line for parking was nearly half a mile long.
With the little information we had gathered, she decided that she wanted to go see the Christmas lights. So, being the man that I am, I pulled up the prices, picked a date, and took her. I couldn’t imagine the gift I would receive for doing that.
The wait was just as long as we expected. Though we had scheduled a time for our hayride, it was a time slot for hundreds of people. We found ourselves waiting in a long line of cars on the side road of the highway. We found ourselves waiting even longer in the entrance line full of hundreds, if not thousands of people. The wait was long enough to outlast the sunset hour.
The night came into play, and so did the lights. Everywhere you looked, you saw green, red, white, blue, and every hue in between. It was looking like it was going to be a marvelous sight, but ultimately better appreciated by children. Still, being with her was my inner child at play, so I was fine with whatever I would see.
As we crossed the threshold, a whole different world opened before our eyes. There was an outdoor Christmas-themed concert in the middle of a town of shops and restaurants. Candy cane, coffee, hot chocolate, pine, fir, and spruce scents filled our noses. The further we walked into the park, the less people crowded the walkways and the more smells occupied our attention. You could smell barbeque, queso, and a hint of Cajun seasoning in the air.
We stopped for coffee and sweets. Though the store functioned as a coffee shop, the seats were only outside in the cool air of winter. After she warmed herself up with some coffee, we headed straight for the hayride. The pathway almost became intimate when I had found only a few people walking alongside us. We went up the hills into the trees and the well-lit areas became a darkened path.
Near the top of the hill, we saw a few glimpses of the trail. An entire hill was covered in light blue lights and fake white snow. Snowmen, Santa, and reindeer statues were placed everywhere. Already, she was pulling out her phone to take pictures. However, she was still calm by this point. The coffee hadn’t set it. It could’ve been that the hill made us a little winded, or it could’ve been the chilly breeze shifting through the trees. Either way, everything was going how I expected to. We’d have a little bit of fun, maybe see a few mesmerizing displays, and then we’d go home, not needing to see this place again.
Then, we came upon the hayride. There were large, ranch trucks hauling trailers filled with dozens of people and hay. There were three trucks lined up. The truck in the front was pulling off with maybe thirty people on its trailer. The second truck was empty, waiting to be loaded. The third truck was pulling up from the rear, getting ready to offload the passengers that had just finished the trail.
We walked through lines established by rods like we were cattle. It definitely had a ranch or rodeo vibe about it. Luckily, a line that was established for a much longer wait time was very short. They had just opened, but, luckily, the hayride wasn’t the first place people flocked to. We made it onto the very next ride in the second truck. We only had to wait for the trailer to be loaded with people.
Once the trailer was loaded, the truck took off slowly towards the trails of lights. I had seen these Christmas light trails on much smaller scales. Usually, people drive their own cars through the rides and it lasts maybe ten minutes. After we passed through the initial introductory light display for the Santa’s Wonderland Hayride, I realized our ride was going to be much longer.
There were fantastical displays for at least two miles inside the forest. The trail twisted and turned around complete hills that were covered in decorations. The truck was only driving five to ten miles an hour, so it was very apparent that we were going to have to sit through this rather than stand. We found two seats, and watched, with our phones in hand, as the lightshow started.
That’s when I saw it. Between, the pictures, the gasps, the ooh’s and ahh’s, she stood up. Her eyes gazed at the curtain of color-changing lights, flickering by design here and there, and she let out a smile. It wasn’t a smile I had seen before. It was so innocent and free. This was a woman who refused to smile in photos. She didn’t smile for anything. Yet, here she was with all her teeth showing and the hue of the lights meshing with her clothes and skin. She looked up from right to left and just smiled.
That was when I knew that I had done the right thing in making sure we went to Santa’s Wonderland. We took many pictures, ate food, saw kids do routine dances for our entertainment, and just shared one of the best nights of my life. Out of all the things we did, and we walked around the entire park that night, her innocent smile beneath the Christmas lights will forever be the thing that warms my heart the most.
I could only think of one other moment that made me feel this way. This moment belongs to my mother. When I say she was going through a lot, she was going through a lot! It had to be one of the most humiliating experiences of her life, from my point of view. It was definitely a season of betrayal for her in ways I’m not allowed to say, nor do I want to. Suffice it to say, watching her struggle made me struggle in ways I didn’t know how to explain.
I was growing up. I started wanting to be the caretaker rather than the one taken care of. I didn’t have all the things I needed to do so, but I had the desire and it was enough to make an impact. One thing about a man like me, he loves to take care of the women in his life, especially if they’ve been good to him. My mother is nothing short of a saint and a hero to me, and she’d have to do some very devastating things to convince me otherwise. She will have my honor and my respect all the days of my life. That’s why, when she decided she wasn’t going to do anything special for her birthday, I had to step in and do something.
I am big on celebrating your life. There is clear evidence that not all people live through a year, so if you make it, celebrate it to the fullest. Hearing my mother say she didn’t feel like celebrating where she was in her life hurt me to hear no matter how much I understood. If she didn’t have it in her to celebrate herself, I’d celebrate her for her.
I started planning a surprise birthday party. Everyone that I knew I could get to attend was invited. It didn’t have to be much, it just had to be enough to say, “We see you, and we will continue to love you through it.”
I bought food, invited the family chefs (because I hadn’t learned to man a grill yet), I bought decorations and gifts, and I made sure she knew nothing about it. Together, with my younger brother, we made sure that she wouldn’t know anything until she saw it. He was going to be with her during the day, so he was giving me direction on where they were and how long they’d be there.
I had everyone park down the street so she wouldn’t see their cars and ruin the surprise. We placed the grill inside so that she wouldn’t see the smoke from the driveway. From outside the house, you wouldn’t have known a party was taking place. We all hid inside the garage so she wouldn’t expect a thing.
It was hilarious trying to breathe as we hid in the garage along with the grill that was still cooking meat. Our eyes were starting to burn, and it was getting difficult to not open the garage door for a second. I believed in my brother’s direction, and I didn’t want to risk being seen before she opened the garage door. We hushed and waited, letting out slight coughs on occasion and fanning our eyes.
Then, the garage door began to open. I held a “Happy Birthday” sign up high above my head, just knowing I was going to get her. I knew she was going to be thrilled to the point of tears. I was excited. I didn’t understand why until later.
. She pulled her car into the driveway and stopped. That’s when I saw it. She had the biggest smile on her face as we all shouted, “Happy Birthday!” from the garage. She got out of the car and shouted, “Oh, wow!” as she looked at family. It was no more than 15 of us, but we were there, and we were daring enough to show our love for her.
She came into the garage and started hugging everyone. She had to take a moment to fan her eyes. She kept saying, “Oh, wow.” with the brightest smile on her face. Again, she looked like a kid at Christmas time. She had planned to be miserable, but instead, we turned it into a celebration.
It’s something about a childlike smile emerging from a face that just warms my heart and makes me emotional. People live so much of their lives in misery, dissatisfaction, defeat, contentment, and without passion, that the kid who used to be super excited about the most mundane things gets lost.
I love to lift children up and make them laugh and smile. I love to lift men up, encourage them, and let them know they’re loved. But there’s something about making a woman you care about smile that just invigorates, empowers, and fills me with pride. It just makes you feel like a man.
Many men miss out on this understanding while being caught up in their pride and selfishness. I do not intend to be that kind of man. I intend to be kind, tender, compassionate, understanding, helpful, peaceful, and a source of joy. Those two moments, and many like it, truly make me feel like a man. It makes me stick my chest out and say, “I did that.”
“My mother cried tears of joy because she saw I cared for her.” “That woman I love felt like a kid again because I took her to have fun.” You don’t always strike gold when you reach for it, so when you do, treasure it. Women don’t let their guard down with men. Women aren’t typically happy because of men. Men have done so much dirt in the world that they are weary of us. Let me encourage you to be the guy that isn’t the lesson to learn or the enemy to defend against. Be the man that is specifically there to show her a good time.
Don’t let your motivations be sex, because that cheapens the moment and lessens your ability to truly succeed. She won’t feel safe or carefree with you. Don’t let your motivations be about putting her in debt to you, because that spoils the good deed. It’ll make her weary of you. Be kind, be thoughtful, be fun, be peace, and be comfort just because she needs you to be that. Be what she needs you to be. It’s not like they aren’t there for us when we need them, and that’s even when we’ve done wrong by them.
I don’t understand how a man can smile about hurting a woman. After experiencing a woman who feels safe and secure around you versus one that just isn’t going to trust you, I don’t know why men don’t strive to stay in that space of peace and security. Why tarnish her trust in you? How does it benefit? I have never seen a man thrive from being evil to a woman. I’ve seen men convince themselves, and themselves only, that they benefitted, but I’ve seen a man who walked away after being evil to a woman and thrived. They’re always rotting inside.
Seriously, fellas, stretch your capabilities. Think outside of the box. Really pay attention to the things she likes and wants to do. It is really easy when you actually care about someone. All I did was take a woman I love to a Christmas-themed park, and throw a surprise party for my mom. These were not strenuous, nor expensive, acts. They just required me to care to do it and actually go do it.
Next time a woman you care about is happy and smiling, ask yourself, have I seen her smile uncontrollably? Have I done something that instinctively brought life, joy, and happiness to her entire being? Have I done anything that made her cry tears of joy? Have I seen her inner child come out to play? If you haven’t, you are severely missing out, and I need you to fix that. Knowing that I was able to do that for them is what made me feel like a man. I don’t claim to be an expert on being a man, but that feeling right there – that one where you’re sitting there as the responsible party for that glowing smile on her face – that is definitely a part of being a man.
There are certain events in life you just have to experience. You have to see the sunrise and sunset both over the water and over the field. You have to visit another country at least once. You have to hike and explore a big city. You have to see an animal that is excited to see you. You have to make a baby laugh. You have to see one world wonder. These experiences change you and enlighten you in ways you could’ve never expected. Right up there with these stupendous experiences is seeing a woman smile genuinely, like a child, because of what you did for them. It is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
To the women who allowed me to share these moments with them, thank you and I love you both very much. Sometimes you don’t realize why your soul smiled until you are reminded that it did months and years ago. My soul smiled because I was able to do these things for you, and seeing your natural responses be elation was the start of me being at peace about being a man. I know I am a man because of how you responded to me doing a manly thing. I took care of a woman I loved. That is manhood. I get that now. Thank you both, from the bottom of my heart.
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