I love the movie “City Slickers”, don’t you? I love the scene in the beginning where Billy Crystal’s Mom calls him on the morning of his birthday and relives the whole day. When I first saw the movie, of course, I identified with Billy’s character.
Now I am all about that Mother. When I can’t sleep, deep in the darkest heart of the night, I still relive my children’s births. If I have so far refrained from retelling every anxious moment to those children on their birthdays, it is only because I’m not quite there yet. Give me time….
But my favorite scene in the film, the scene that I think about sometimes when I’m driving or cooking or cutting the grass, is the one where Billy Crystal asks his two friends to identify their “best day”.
I have given this idea a lot of thought. I really have.
And I have a few “best days”. But there is one, in particular, that rings true to me now as my very best day. As I sit here tonight, having sent one son off to his new apartment, and waiting to move the second one out in the morning, I keep thinking of this “best day”. The irony, of course, is that at the time I had no idea that I was living a memory.
The day happened one hot July in about 1998. We were camping down on Assateague Island in Maryland for the very first time. As I recall, Tim was just turned six years old, Matt was almost 8, and Katie was 12. We had chosen Assateague as a vacation spot when I passed a billboard for it on Route 95 the winter before. I had remembered my abiding love of the Marguerite Henry books about “Misty of Chincoteague”, and we had decided to take the kids there to see the site of the story.
On this particular day, my “best day”, we had woken up in our trailer at the campsite, walked the short distance over the dunes to the beach and had spent the morning enjoying the waves, the sun and the wild ponies who walked the beach. I had given the kids lunch, and had brought us all back into the trailer to rest. I opened the book, “Misty of Chincoteague” and began to read out loud. Kate was lying on one bed, listening with a smile on her face. Paul sat at the table, with a AAA guidebook in front of him. And my little boys were lying on the other bed, with me perched on the edge. As I read to them, they kept their eyes on my face, and reacted to each new event in the story with smiles, gasps, or laughter.
As I read out loud, a part of me could not believe my good fortune. Here I was, sitting on the real beach at Assateague Island, surrounded by my supremely beloved three children, reading aloud from what had been a formative book from my own childhood. I read, I felt the heat of the day, I heard the waves crashing on the other side of the dunes. I looked at my beautiful babies, those incredible gifts that I once thought I would never receive, and I breathed in a deep, salt laden breath.
Eventually, all three kids fell asleep, and Paul and I whispered as we planned the next days’ adventures. The hottest part of the afternoon passed, the kids woke up, and we went back to the beach where the ponies stood in the surf.
I think that was my very best day.