on bad days

One of my favorite books is “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. Alexander has a bad day that begins with waking up with gum in his hair. His day included: no toy in his cereal, getting demoted to third-best by his number one best friend, kissing on TV and lima beans for supper. He finally says he’s going to Australia and his mom in her wisdom says, “some days are like that, even in Australia.”

A few days ago, I started my day by hitting my big toe on a box in my office, first thing in the morning. Ouch! Then, I couldn’t find my car keys. I looked all the places I’ve lost them in the past, I recalled all the places I’d been in the last days, I even dropped by a few and asked about my keys. I always got the same answer, “Oh no, how are you driving now?” Ugh! A few years ago Ron came to me and said, “Celia, I love you, I adore you, but I can’t look for your keys anymore.” What he didn’t realize is that it makes me crazy, too. I have a special place where they are suppose to hang, but did I put them there? Okay, I checked one more time, but no. Maybe if I moved to Australia I wouldn’t need keys.

Next I dropped Max, my new first grader, off on his first big day of school and as I was talking to his teacher about helping in the classroom, she shooed me on my way, and said we’ll be fine. I know she didn’t mean to shoo me. If she knew me she wouldn’t shoo me. Really I taught school, I know what it means to teach them independence, but today he asked if I’d walk him to class and I thought, while I’m here I’ll make myself available. Last year several parents were in and out of kindergarten with learning centers, reading to the class and helping out in the room. When the moms this year talked about how different it would be, I assumed they were talking about themselves, not me. I wanted to say to his new teacher, “I get that he’s bigger now. Trust me, I’m fine, but you might like some help.” About that time, she smiled and closed the door. So I smiled at the closed door and walked slowly to my car. With my spare set of keys in hand, all the while trying to figure out how this year is going to work. Okay, so I felt a little hurt that I’d been shooed. I knew I wouldn’t spend much time in his twelfth grade classroom, I just didn’t anticipate that beginning this year, in the first grade. I made my way home and instead of getting to all the work on my desk. I revisited my quest for, you guessed it, my keys. Ron looked for keys, he really does love me. Then the babysitter came by to watch Zach a little and to get her last paycheck of the summer. I forgot about my keys for a bit. I made some phone calls, bought some airline tickets and did some paper work in my office.

Soon it was time to pick up Max from school. He is a car rider and if you have ever picked up an elementary student from school at the beginning of the year, you know that Australia looks pretty good compared to that line. I grabbed a peach for me and a snack for Max, said goodbye to both Zach and the sitter, hopped in my car, put it in reverse and thought to myself, “I’ll get to school early and talk to the moms about the shooing and my quest for keys.” As I backed up, I checked my rearview mirror, not remembering Zach had adjusted it for his height. I saw the pecan tree in our yard and thought I was clear for take off. As I was backing up, I heard a loud thud and felt a jolt. “Where was the babysitters car parked?” I thought quickly to myself. No, no, no! As I jumped out of the car, Ron greeted meet at the scene. Then the crying and wailing began, “I’m so sorry.” It was only a little ding in her hood, but one I knew would need professional undinging. What’s wrong with me? Why am I not in Australia? As I walked back into the kitchen, I was the one who felt like a teenager. The sitter smiled and said, “I put one of the dents in the front, so don’t feel so bad.” Her smile and hug was a comical relief. Oh, did I mention she was packed to leave to go to college tomorrow morning?” “Yea,” she laughed. We laughed together until her cell phone rang. It was her dad checking in. We all froze. “Ok give me the phone,” I said, and I greeted him with the news. Ok he didn’t laugh, but of course said, “Celia it’ll be okay.” Hold the rest of my calls, because I’m considering having lunch with a Koala Bear. Ron rode with me to get Max from school. I wiped my eyes and mustered a smile as I saw one of the moms. She yelled, “coffee tomorrow morning at Bean Town, the local coffee shop.” Okay, I said over the car. As Max got into the car, we hugged. I told him about the crazy thing mom did and that I was thinking about Alexander and his story and about going to Australia. Max said to me, “some days are like that.” We both cracked up laughing, and he gave me a hug and told me the best thing and the not-so-best thing about his day.

As I sat and recanted this day for your encouragement, it was quite late in the evening and I couldn’t sleep. I wandered into my home office to find a #2 pencil and made my way to our guest bedroom to read. On the nightstand sat my dad’s pocket watch and the book I was finishing by Margaret Becker. It’s called “Coming Up For Air” and it has been just the right thing for this season. I read the last chapter and Margaret shared about the death of her mom and her journey through those days. On the last page she recalls a thought her mom shared with her one day, “the good Lord gave us only this day, M. Make something of it.”

I reflected on the day I’d had. I looked down at my dad’s watch in my hand and thought, “what’s really precious, Celia?” For me, real life is primarily not about my stubbed big toe, or my losing keys, or my being shooed out of first grade class, or about accidents involving cars. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s the small things that take the wind out of my sails, not the big ones. Misplacing my emphasis makes the little things become big things. It’s about my losing sight of the fullness of love in my life–the loss of perspective. What I know to be important, is to love and to be loved. That is pure, rich and precious. Sharing something that is real, something like a smile on a friend’s face when they just rear-ended your car or like a hug from last year’s teacher, who I adored–She and I agreed, we’re all gonna be okay this new year. I know I’ll love this new teacher just as much — shooing and all. A wave from a mom reminds me that I’m not in this alone. A reminder from Max of the best and not so bewt things in our day and every once in a while, there are some days without not-so-best parts–I love those days! God is in the midst of each moment and I am so thankful for this day–even this day. It was one of my days I realize what a gift it is, even the little things, so I must embrace it all.

The next morning I had coffee with six of the moms whose children shared a kindergarten class last year. We laughed about my being shooed. They shared their stories of running into things with their cars. I got up to refill my coffee cup and glanced back as their laughter filled the room and I realized that I was grateful, even for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Some days are like that, even in Franklin, Tennessee. Australia will have to wait for another day. I’m off to make something of this new one, and I invite you to make something of yours. Enjoy!

Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Ciao, Celia

P.S. I found my keys, tucked away in a corner right where I left them.

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