“Okay, let’s go around the table and everyone describe their best day ever,” JoEllen said.
It was girls’ night out, and they were having dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant. JoEllen was the social director of their group; she always came up with ways to keep their time together interesting.
“We’ll all say the best day was our wedding day, or the day our children were born,” Rhonda protested.
“No, we can’t name those things.” JoEllen was inclined to bossiness, but the others forgave her for it. “We’ll agree that those days were the best of the best. But for this purpose, tell about a day when everything just fell into place – a day that stays in your memory because it left such a good feeling.”
“Why don’t you go first, since you’ve had the unfair advantage of time to think about it,” Maria said.
“Sure. My best day ever happened when I was really young – I might have been four or five. Dad was putting up hay in the haymow and Mom said I could watch if I stayed right beside the lilac bush. She put a little yellow chair there for me. I remember the herbal smell of the hay, the drone of bees in the lilacs, and realizing for the first time that I lived in a beautiful world. I felt I was exactly where I belonged. Daddy died a couple of years later.”
The others nodded. JoEllen had grown up without her father.
Katie spoke next. “My best day ever was when I sold my first article to a national magazine. It was the closest I’ve ever come to walking on air. Just to know that professionals valued what I wrote and paid me for it – wow! I’m still happy for a sale, but the first one convinced me I was a real writer. That validation gave me the courage to keep at it.”
Maria looked down at her hands. “Are you sure we can’t talk about the day our children were born? Because when Brian came into the world…”
“No!” JoEllen was firm. “That day was the best of the best, no question. But what we’re talking about is different. It’s an experience unique to ourselves. Something that changed or clarified the way we saw the world.”
The group was getting into it now. Rhonda spoke next. “The best day for me was the day I finally broke up with Toby.”
There were groans. They all remembered the drama – they’d secretly called him Toby the Terrible. But Rhonda couldn’t see it for the longest time.
“I thought I’d never survive without him, but when it was over there was a wonderful feeling of liberation. No more worrying about whether Toby was in a good mood. No more fear that next time he’d actually take a swing at me. I realized I was a person of value, if not to him, then to myself.”
There was a pattering of applause and Rhonda took a little bow.
All heads turned toward Maria. She was the last to speak.
“Maybe you’ll think mine is stupid,” she said.
The friends chorused their encouragement. She continued.
“Last week I was pulling weeds. I was hot and thirsty and my back ached from all the stooping. I just wanted to get done. There was this one stubborn weed that had come up in a crack in the driveway. You know how dry it’s been – this weed was parched for water. It lay over on its side, completely wilted. But boy, did it resist being pulled! Part of it broke off, but the root held. I finally gave up.”
“What did it clarify for you?” JoEllen asked.
“I guess for me that weed exemplified perseverance. It was just a weed, but it was fully engaged with its life and refused to be uprooted.”
Maria stopped, fighting back tears. The others looked at her in surprise. Where was all this coming from?
“Why was that a good day?” Rhonda asked gently.
“Because…because I need that same perseverance. I haven’t been ready to tell you this until now. I have breast cancer. Chemo starts next week and I know it’s going to be rough, but I’ll fight with everything I’ve got to stay alive. That weed, well, it wasn’t giving up. And when I let it live, I promised myself that I wouldn’t give up, either.”
The four friends continued meeting over the years and when the did, they gave thanks for gray hair, aches and pains, and the privilege of growing old. They agreed that just being together made it the best day ever.