The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.
I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.
And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”
That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.
Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.
And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – fifty-some years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 21,500 to choose from now. Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.
There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would. But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.
I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life. But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures – coffee and a peanut butter sandwich – at hand, and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is busy making pickles in the kitchen. The cats are scattered and sleeping, and my morning newspaper waits for me on the table. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this the best day of my life.
So here’s a song that never fails to make a good day better. It’s Danny Kirwan’s instrumental, “Sunny Side of Heaven,” from Fleetwood Mac’s 1974 album, Bare Trees, and it’s the 300th Saturday Single.
Tags: Fleetwood Mac