We all have one. That one day (or if we're lucky, several days) that live in infamy in our own minds. We look back on them and say, "That was a perfect day." Do you ever wonder about that? What makes them so special? What circumstances, mood, people align to create that 'perfect storm' of a day?
I have several, but the one I think of most often was several Christmases ago. I was working at the university I graduated from. It was a little nest of a job... the perfect easy start into the big bad world of working my life away. I had a wonderful, friendly boss and a coworker that was a soul mate from the start. All three of us had an easy camaraderie (anyone affiliated with that school is snickering at my word usage here).
That particular week before Christmas, my husband went skiing with his family in Colorado. I didn't get off work until the week of Christmas, so I stayed behind to finish out my work week. I know it sounds pathetic, my being left behind to work, but it really wasn't so bad. I led a blissful existence there, in a little rented farm house with tall ceilings and creaky wood floors. We lived two blocks from campus, and I got to come home during my lunch breaks to eat lunch in my big white, sunny kitchen with wide wooden windows. I loved living there.
That last Friday before Christmas I fairly skipped to work. OK, I drove, but I was mentally skipping. I bundled up in my favorite grey wool coat and long pink scarf. I drove my two minute commute and my boss declared it an early holiday. We spent most of the morning talking and chatting, drinking coffee. We decided to order pizza for lunch, and the delivery man came within the hour with our two supreme pizzas. Holiday was in the air, everyone was happy and the entire campus was exhaling in anticipation of shutting down for seven days.
We paid the delivery guy, who looked oddly antsy and pale. Before he left, he threw a cautious glance over his shoulder and said, "Y'all might want to think about taking that pizza home early," and disappeared out the door with a ding of the bell. We looked at each other, puzzled, and I leaned out our doorway (our office was windowless) and peered into the lobby.
The lobby windows stretched from floor to ceiling, three stories tall. I squinted, because I couldn't see anything. It seemed a solid stretch of ice was concealing the entire window. I frowned, mentally acknowledging that the sun had been shining when I came to work that morning. My boss looked at us and said, "I think we should shut the office down early."
It became complete panic in the building. There was a mass exodus the likes of which I had never seen before, and have never seen since. Women were running with scarves flying, umbrellas turning inside out and people sprawled on patches of ice. I shoved a few pieces of pizza in a plastic bag and headed to the parking lot. The ground was terribly slick and I slid around, hands waving to keep my balance. The sleet and snow were falling so hard it stung my skin, and I could feel my mascara begin to run down my face. I found my way to the car without breaking any limbs, but immediately began to panic. My entire car was covered with a solid sheet of ice, and my being the southern girl that I am, did not have an ice scraper in my car. In a blind panic, I threw my purse into the car, put the defrost on high and began manically scraping the ice with my fingernails (but not before checking my reflection in the rear view mirror to find that not only had my mascara dripped down my face, I bore an erie resemblance to Alice Cooper).
The parking lot began to empty out and I was alone, scraping with my fingernails. Unless you've ever worked for a university, you cant imagine how empty and deserted a campus can feel at a time like this. Big, dark windowed buildings stood around, hundreds of dorm rooms were empty, and I alone was left in the parking lot, trying to get home. All of a sudden, I could hear a loud alarm sounding inside my car. I leaned down and what did I find flashing? The low coolant light. 'Great,' I said aloud, 'great!" I was yelling this to myself when my coworker walked up behind me said, "Need help?"
I have never been so relieved to see someone, except that when I think back, I had no real reason to panic. In all honestly, I probably could have walked/crawled the two blocks home. Or called one of my two uncles who owned 4wheel drive trucks. But these aren't the sort of things that readily occur to me when I become panicked and irrational.
My beloved co-worker helped me clean off a patch of windshield ice big enough for to see through, we hugged goodbye hurriedly, and I crept home. My tires spun, and I held my breath the whole way. What normally took 2 minutes to drive, stretched into 10 creeping minutes. When I pulled into my driveway, I clicked the garage door opener and pulled safely into the fold. This is the part of the story where you are probably asking, "Why is this one of her favorite days ever? Sounds horrible."
Well, you just cant imagine the relief I felt to get home. I have never felt that before, the ultimate contentment, the knowledge that I had all I needed in life under that roof. The sleet kept falling, hitting hard on the roof. It began changing over to snow, and I decided to make the most of the day. I put on boots, comforted Mabel (who was still a baby who had never experienced winter weather before) and we played in the backyard. She jumped and bit at the snow and sleet, I ran around and threw snow balls at her. Our house had a giant backyard, full of huge oak trees, a storm shelter, a little shop with electricity. It really was a heavenly place to live, and on that day was the picture of Christmas; a sparkling, icy wonderland.
Afterward, Mabel and I both were sopping wet and cold. I left all my wet boots and socks on the slanting back porch next to the washer and dryer (it's a miracle the lines in my washer didn't freeze and break that winter) and put on my pajamas and warmest sweater. Mabel snuggled into some blankets on the couch. I baked chocolate chip cookies, opened up all the curtains to see the snow, and listened to Charles Trenet on my cd player. I ate those cookies and watched cars and people skid around on the street near my house, so content and happy next to my Christmas tree. I had seven days ahead of me, nowhere to go, and lots of snow outside. It is one of the happiest memories I have, and anytime I hear 1930's french music, it sends me right back to that blissful afternoon spent in pj's, watching it snow.
I took this picture that day. Sometimes, when I get stressed out during my workday, I put this picture as my screen saver and listen to Que Reste - T'il de Nos Amor. It's the perfect memory, of a perfect day. Isn't it funny how that happens? I've wondered how I can completely forget hundreds of days in a year. I often stare at Matt, blank faced and say, "I don't remember that." And yet, for some inexplicable reason, I remember that day perfectly. Every detail, every smell, every sight. Don't you often find yourself sitting around, wondering when the next perfect day will happen? Another perfect day, I'm ready.