The clerk caroled, “Have a fantastic evening,” as she handed me my groceries.
I looked back at her with some alarm. A fantastic evening? What are the chances? The last time I had a fantastic evening was in 1997. In Nashville. And I’d be obliged if you wouldn’t mention it to my children.
It’s not possible to leave any place of business these days without insistence from total strangers and casual passers-by that we should have a wonderful day. I even get emails that end “make every day an incredible day.” I could handle that. But “have a fantastic evening” sets a standard I can’t possibly meet.
I prefer the Irish style of good wishes, “May the road rise up to meet you.” I’m not sure what that means but I like it. “May the wind be always at your back.” The responsibility is placed squarely on the road and the wind. But if you tell me to have an incredible evening, it’s all my fault when it doesn’t work out.
I could get behind more practical wishes such as, “Hope you’re able to find matching socks,” or even “May your meatballs be free of horse meat.”
One year I was seized with the idea that I could celebrate Christmas every day of the year if I didn’t take down my decorations. It worked fine at first. I enjoyed a hot buttered rum every night in front of the fire. It would have been better if I’d had a fireplace, but I made do with the toaster oven. The tree dried out and turned red around Valentine’s Day and after that everything went downhill. By St. Patrick’s Day, the Santa collection slid off the mantel and I was trudging around in broken glass. Every day just can’t be incredible. Some days have to be blessedly ordinary.
Some people have a gift for making ordinary days extraordinary.
At St. John Bosco Parish in Lakewood, Rita Kuklish has been named community gardener of the year by the Pierce County Conservation District Community Gardens Program. Rita spearheads a crew of volunteers who have turned a small patch of unpromising space into the highest-yielding community garden in the area. In the project’s first year, the garden produced 700 pounds of food. Now, 19 years later, volunteers harvested 21/2 tons of food for area food banks.
The gardeners are mostly senior citizens, successfully retired, and they’d be quite entitled to sit around watching “Ellen” and “The View” all day. But they’re out in the cold and the rain on a succession of ordinary days to make an incredible day for someone else.
Over in Puyallup, venerable western artist Fred Oldfield will soon take time from his busy schedule of painting and teaching kids to celebrate his 95th birthday, Guests on the evening of March 16 will arrive at the Western Heritage Center costumed to represent a year in Fred’s life. They’ll celebrate with a big chuck-wagon breakfast because that’s his favorite meal. He’ll probably even do a bit of dancing. Not a bad start for the next five years.
Last month in this space, after I complained that I’d bought a prayer plant that wouldn’t pray, I got a call from a reader named John who works in a nursery. He explained that most likely my plant was too wet and wanted more sun. I moved it into the sun and let it dry out a bit. Now it’s praying like crazy. It’s nice to see a return to faith, especially at this time of the year, and I’m grateful to John for taking a few unexpected minutes to make my day special.
I don’t think you can routinely plan an incredible day and I’m not going to wish you a fantastic evening. I wish, instead, that your grandkids will send new art for your refrigerator, that you’ll see the spot on your sweater before you go out in the bright sunshine, and that your head won’t be attacked by an owl looking for nesting materials next time you’re out running. I hope you’ll treasure every ordinary minute. Do what you can with the rest of the day.Dorothy Wilhelm’s website is itsnevertoolate.com. Reach her at 800-548-9264; P.O. Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327; or Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.