I manage to get out of bed and into a hot shower, and then, as I’m slowly getting ready, I spray myself in the face with hairspray. It’s exactly as awful as you would think. Hairspray tastes like crushed aspirin mixed with shards of tin cans. I peer at my reflection in the mirror. God, my roots are bad, I think. What percentage of that mess is gray these days? 20? Maybe even 30? And how is my skin so dry and yet I have these weird patches of zits across my cheeks? Jeez. I need to take better care of myself. But I can’t worry about this right now. Somehow I have to get through this day.
It’s a preschool day and we’re running late. I put bread in the toaster oven and realize ten minutes later that I never turned it on. I toss a few handfuls of cereal at the children and one of ibuprofen into my own mouth. With the help of my husband, somehow everyone gets out the door and into the car.
Driving is hard when you can’t move your neck. I turn on the radio for distraction and it gives me something relentlessly cheerful. Ugh. All I really want is Alanis, you know?
I drop the twins off at preschool and then head back home with the 2-year-old. Ibuprofen on an empty stomach has made it so that I can’t feel my lips, but the pain in my neck still screams at me every time I press the gas or the brake. I lock eyes with the sweet little kiddo in the rearview mirror and silently apologize for the number of Daniel Tiger episodes I’m going to turn on instead of taking her to playgroup today. I just need a rest.
And then, on the radio, I hear a guy singing about how this is “gonna be the best day of [his] li-i-i-i-i-i-iiiife.”
Well that’s just ridiculous, I think. I mean, how could he possibly know that? He sounds so young. With any luck, he could have another 50 or 60 years of life ahead of him, and it would be pretty terrible if 50 years’ worth of days all paled in comparison to this one day.
And then I have a frightening thought. Well, two frightening thoughts, really. First, I think: I sound SO OLD. This guy on the radio and I could very well be close to the same age, but he’s having the best day of his life and I’m a cynical old bat who can’t move her neck. I might as well just buy a bunch of beige slacks and spend my days shaking my fist at the scallywags who drive too fast down my street.
My next, more frightening thought is this: Have I already lived the best day of my life? And if so, what day was it? If not, will I recognize it when it happens? Does anyone? How do they know?
So then I start thinking back through the highlights of my life. The heady days of falling in love with my husband were pretty great, but I was so young. The day I became a mother was certainly momentous, but it was also exhausting and painful, and it would be pretty crummy to say to my youngest daughter, “Well, it was great when you were born and everything, but the best day of my life was the day that your sisters came into the world.”
Colorful images from past great days flash through my mind: heaps of Turkish Delight in a London market; the shimmering, blue view from the top of a hill on a tiny Maine island; the surprise of perfect soup and a crackling fireplace in the midst of wet, green Scottish woods. I’m lucky. I’ve lived a lot of great days. It’s possible, I guess, that the best day of my life has already happened, but I’m hoping the best is yet to come. What is life, after all, without something to look forward to?
And then I wonder what “the best day” would look like, for me, at this grown-up, responsibility-filled point in my life. Would it include my children, or would it be a rare, blissful, child-free getaway? Would I most want to spend it at home, or in some spectacular, far-off destination? Does it matter? Can you even plan for something like the best day of your life, or do you just have to wait for it to find you, like an unexpected gift?
One thing I know for sure is that today is not it. But tomorrow might be. So I’m going to buy some expensive face serum and get my roots done and go see someone about this pain. I want to be ready for more best days of my life, whenever they come, and whatever they look like. I crank up the volume on this happy guy’s song. This may not be the best day of my life, but it’s not the worst one either, and it’s certainly not going to be the day that I start wearing beige slacks.