I drive my son to school each morning now, because standing at the bus stop without seeing his dog looking at him through the front door made him so sad he can’t get on the bus without crying.
And no one wants to start every day off sad and grieving. I don’t want him going to school that way every day, and there are only a few weeks left in the school year anyway. I like our drives to school together. The Boy is getting older…he gets promoted to middle school in a few numbered days, and it’s not lost on me that I’m becoming ‘less’ in his life…less needed, less of an influencer, less time together, less confided in. So I’m soaking up and cherishing every moment I have when he’s still happy to be around his mom. We still share some things, like music. The Boy is a SUPER lot like J, but he has similar musical preferences to me, and we listen to ‘his’ guy, Eric Hutchinson (I introduced The Boy to this artist since literal birth…but I never bring that up to him…Hutch is The Boy’s favorite artist, so that’s ‘his’ guy now) in the car on the way to school. Mr. Hutchinson has a song called ‘Best Days’ that we like, and I won’t copy ALL the lyrics here for you, just a couple of highlighted lines.
“I get myself up every day
To fight this ‘woe is me’ demeanor
If things had gone another way
Now would my grass be any greener?
And as I’m struggling on my own
I have to think I’m not alone…
Give and take, we catch our breaks
We all learn to survive
Oh, but don’t look now
I said don’t look now
Cause here we are
Living the best days of our lives…
And as we’re walkin’ through the fire
Isn’t it great to be alive?”
(and this is my favorite line in this song…Eric Hutchinson writes great lyrics…)
“I notice happiness depends on if we share it with each other.”
So The Boy asked me what I thought the best day of my life was on the way to school last Friday morning. I told him (honestly) that was a really tough question, because (thankfully) I’ve had a lot of really great days. I told him I’d think about it while he told me his. I asked him what he thought the best days of his life were…so far. (He’s 11.) He said the first day we were at Disneyland last summer and ‘meet the teacher’ night for 4th grade (that was pretty awesome…like…ALL of his best friends were in his class in 4th grade and his teacher was top notch…one of his favorite teachers so far and definitely MY favorite teacher of his so far…he asked me that night if I called school and told them to arrange this class and put him in it…I didn’t, but I thought it was cute and comical that he thought I had that kind of influence at the time). Those were good choices for him. If I were him, I’d probably have picked those too.
I told him I’m old and I’ve lived a lot more days than him, and it’s really hard to narrow it down to just one or two, so he said, ‘Gimme five max of your favorite days.’ Top 5 was still pretty hard. I’m not very good at ‘ranking’ things. I don’t like choosing favorites or claiming things are ‘the best’ because I’m afraid to forget important things and leave things out and to some degree hurt things’ feelings like I love them less. I know…silly. Like I’m hurting spring’s feelings if I say I like summer more or whatever, but hey. That’s me. I told The Boy my top five days were, in chronological order:
- The day I met J.
- The day AFTER I married J.
- The day we got our dog.
- The day we brought The Boy home from the hospital after he was born.
- The *second* day we were at Disneyland last summer (I got to spend the day with J and The Boy and our dog was on our big trip with us AND I got to meet my best friend in person for the first time…that was a pretty heckin’ great day).
But I mean, I got to thinking about it and…I’ve had SO MANY great days in my life. What a wonderful dilemma, right? Trying to narrow down your top 5 best days from hundreds? So here are some more that have been rushing through my head in sweeps like a wavy and hard summer rain since last Friday’s ride to school…
When I was Very Small Jen, I went food shopping with my grandparents (on Wednesdays) and we went to the produce market and the dairy store and the chain grocery store that my grandparents still called ‘the dry goods store’ and the butcher shop and the butcher would give me a slice of bologna for free and then we’d go home and eat lunch together at my grandparents kitchen table and I’d watch Grampa put mustard on his rye bread from a jar with a knife and we’d watch The Price is Right on the old 12″ black and white television on top of the kitchen cupboard. Every single one of those Wednesdays was a great day.
The summer between 4th and 5th grade, my dad took me to a professional tennis tournament. I love tennis. I love sports. It’s kind of how I’ve always related to my dad (I wrote a post about that on Derby Day…and kinda one in March). This was a big deal. MAJOR tennis stars (Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander) some in their prime and some just inching into stardom. A tennis tournament wasn’t something people in our station in life had regular access to, but my mom’s work had a box or something and she got that day’s tickets, so Dad took me. We parked our rusted out Chevy Monza between Rolls Royces and Mercedes in the valet lot (because we had a parking pass too) and covered the black vinyl seats with beach towels so they wouldn’t stick to our legs when we came back to go home and Dad bought me a frozen strawberry lemonade and we watched top caliber tennis in the sun all afternoon. That was a great day.
The summer before 9th grade, I went back to my hometown after moving away to a bigger, louder, more crowded school district, because an old friend invited me to stay the night with her and she took me to a youth dance at the local swimming pool and it was the first time a boy asked me to slow dance. I wasn’t really ‘into’ boys or dating or anything like that like most of the girls at my new school were (they all seemed WAY ahead of me in that department), and most boys didn’t even notice me, so that was a great day. And every time I hear Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do from the film Robin Hood, I go right back there, and I smile.
As my senior year of high school was winding down, my friends and I had basically been showing up for school days as pretense for a month, because we were Advanced Placement kids, and our testing was over in early May. The day of graduation practice, we didn’t have to stay at school after it was over, and my best friend was going to attend college really far away from me. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive going to college without him. It worried me a lot, to be honest…the thought of losing him. But that day…graduation practice day…we spent the whole day together screwing off. Listening to music. Driving around. Eating junk food. Playing cards. That was a great day. (He’s still my friend. We’ve hit some rough patches, but…he’s still around, and I still consider him one of my best friends. He’s been in my life for more than 25 years now.)
And there are so many great days with J and The Boy that I can spin down in my head…
The first time J kissed me. Every road trip I took with J from our honeymoon to his best friend’s wedding almost ten years later. Every time I slow danced with J…at some social event including our wedding or just in our kitchen or living room at home. Every time I took The Boy to Story Time or the zoo or to an amusement park. Our first family trip to a thrill park when The Boy was over 48 inches tall…man, he was so happy he literally danced down the midways between rides (J took a phone video). Every time J sprayed our garden hose in the back yard and our dog chased the stream of water. The time J bought me surprise play tickets for Mother’s Day….hell, every date he’s ever planned and taken me on. Every talk I’ve had with J about anything before we fall asleep at night or when we first wake up in the morning. Every time a new novel I wrote arrives in the mail in hard copy form. Every time I hear from an old friend (or a new one). Every time a beloved song comes on the radio when I’m driving or cleaning the house. Walking my dog in National Parks across the country or laying with her on the couch while I wrote or read until she alerted me that The Boy was home on the school bus or J was home from work, jumping up and wagging her tail. Every ‘light saber’ fight the Boy and J have ever had with empty wrapping paper rolls. The Boy ‘helping’ J build his backyard playset when he was 2 and J teaching the Boy how to do car maintenance and troubleshoot computer programming now. Every family drive we’ve taken where J and the Boy get into some discussion about the logistical, atmospheric, and practical engineering issues with building a Lego tower to the moon. Every drive with The Boy to school when he asks me questions like, ‘Mom, what’s the best day of your life?’
Those are all great days. They’re all my best days. They’re all my favorite days.