This got me thinking: what was the best day of my life so far?
Certainly not sitting at a casino and winning money!
Also not my wedding day. I think I was so concerned that everything went right that I never had time to enjoy it properly. Also I was married in Australia and really wished my family could be there.
I remember the feeling of awe when my first child was born. I produced this perfect little thing? With the others I was just glad the birth was over.
I've had some satisfying career moments: winning my first Agatha and making my way to the stage through a ballroom full of people all applauding for me. That was pretty heady. Being escorted onto the stage in Reno by a hunky cover model to receive a career achievement award... that was not bad either! The first time I made the New York Times bestseller list. The time I was nominated for the Edgar best novel. I did a lot of happy dancing for those. But would I trade one of them for time with family? I think with pride about watching my children get married, grandchildren win swimming races, appear in plays, become National Merit finalists.
I think fondly of some of those family meals: fourteen of us all around the table, all laughing and talking and teasing. Pretty perfect. And I can think of a couple of meals that were absolutely perfect. I flew down to Australia for my mother's 75th birthday. She requested a picnic. My brother and sister-in-law did the planning. We sat in the shade on a clifftop with a glittering ocean below us. On the table was every kind of seafood: lobster, crab, oysters, jumbo shrimp. Every kind of cheese. Four or five different salads. Crispy bread and champagne. We ate, we relaxed, we swam, then ate some more. We only went home when it became dark. Yes, that was a perfect day.
Another similar day comes to mind. I was hiking with my friends out at Point Reyes in Marin. Sparkling sunny weather. We followed a bubbling stream up a shady valley, lined with wild flowers. We came to a high meadow with deer standing watching us. Then descended to the ocean, . and came out to arch rock--a might arch jutting over the breaking waves. We sat on warm turf and ate our picnics, talking and laughing together while pelicans wheeled overhead. And I remember thinking clearly, "This is about as perfect as it gets." One of those friends has died now and arch rock collapsed last year, killing a hiker standing on it. So I'm treasuring the moment, as if preserving it in amber.
How about you? What is the best day of your life so far?
LUCY BURDETTE: I tend to agree with you about wedding days, Rhys. It's very hard to enjoy one in the moment if you've been knocking yourself out on the many details and worrying if everyone will behave! On the other hand, that day has led to a wonderful life with John and his kids, whom I consider mine now too. And there were a couple very special times when my first book came out (SIX STROKES UNDER.) My launch was in the local library because all the people wouldn't fit into the bookstore--people from all walks of my life, including my writer sister and my old dad, who was so proud. And a little later, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at a women's golf event--there's nothing like 400 golf-crazy people laughing at your jokes!
But times with family take the prize. Here's one recent day, the day before my darling nephew and his fiancee were married in Malibu. The scene was overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and my funny brother and I had prepared a skit to welcome Hannah into the Isleib tribe. I don't know how this tradition started, but he and I love love love performing silly skits in front of people. (And quite a few of them were Hollywood types--surprising that no one has contacted us about a new career yet!)
And meeting our first grandchild, and helping her parents get settled, that was sure special too!
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Lucy! I want to see that skit! Or at least hear more.
The best day of my life. Oh gosh. I'm thinking it hasn't happened yet.
The day I met Jonathan? That was pretty darn fabulous. Including the Perseid meteor shower. Winning my first Agatha--for PRIME TIME? I was stunned. WInning the Mary Higgins Clark? I could barely speak. When The Other Woman sold?
I'm really cranky right now, and it's funny, it's hard to think, even though it might be therapeutic. I'll keep thinking.
Oh, okay. Here's one. A photo of our honeymoon in Paris.
LUCY: Ok Hank, you asked even if you were just being polite. So I'll give you a little taste. My John is always a little worried that we'll either a, insult someone, or b, call undue attention to ourselves, or c, make general a**es of ourselves and divert the focus from the main event. And in fact right before this presentation, I'd read an advice column in which wedding toasters were advised not to make the toast about themselves. Irresistible material to my funny brother...so here was our first verse (after opening shenanigans, which I will spare you!):
Doug: John says a toast that is just about us
Is uncouth, and really poor form.
Unfortunately we find ourselves so intriguing,
That us talking about us is the norm
And so on...
HANK: Perfect! I'm sure you were a complete hit!
HALLIE EPHRON: One perfect moment was when I went to NY in maybe 1999 to meet my editor for the first time. I'd just sold my first book and I came up out of the subway and there was the Flatiron Building looming in front of me (St. Martin's Press had their offices there) and I remember wishing I'd been wearing a hat on so I could toss it up in the air like Mary Tyler Moore did at the opening of her TV series.
Now it's all about being with my children and my grandchildren. I've got two spectacular grown daughters, Naomi and Molly, and I just love being with them, looking at them, talking to them, feeding them, getting the house ready for their visits. Naomi has 2 of the cutest damned children you ever saw, Franny is 3 and Jody is 5 months old. There's a yiddish word, KVELL, and it's that surge of happy emotion that wells up in you when you look at someone you love unreservedly. I do a lot of kvelling.
HANK: Oh, Hallie you remind me...and I had a New York moment, too. IN 19...91? I was called to NYC to audition for a job as a network correspondent for ABC News. Nightline, and the evening news. I had a solid full nonstop day of interviews with moguls. Tough questions, on camera stuff, ethical and journalistic decision-making. Rigorous! And the end of the day I was old--they love you. Will you come join us? I remember flying home, at night, all the lights of the city beneath me. And I was singing that Carly Simon song from Working Girl: Le the river run, let all the dreamers face the nation-- I was honestly crying with joy. (I decided not to take the job! Another great thing. And another blog.)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh, New York City figures in some of my best days ever. The time Ross and the kids and I went just for fun - no book business at all! - and stayed in a fabulous suite (which I got cheap from Priceline!) in Murray Hill. It was a couple weeks before Christmas, so we shopped at Macys on 7th Avenue and walked around midtown admiring all the window displays. We ate at our favorite German restaurant and saw the Rockette's Christmas show (with orchestra seats!) It was a happy, relaxing, delightful long weekend, with everyone getting along (two full bathrooms helped...) and something we all remember fondly.
Like the rest of you, finding out my first book was going to be published - that was a day that changed my life. One day in North Carolina with a special friend - we drove his ancient ragtop Mercedes up a dirt road and then hiked to his favorite spot and went swimming in an icy cold stream before picnicking beneath the trees. It doesn't sound like much, but it was a perfect day. Almost every day we spent on our once-in-a-lifetime African safari, driving out to view elephants and zebra and giraffes and wildebeests and lions, drinking G&Ts as the sun set across the savannah, and then on to a gourmet dinner beneath a tented canopy.
Sometimes I wonder if the very best day might not have taken place when I was a kid in Argyle, NY, which was a lot like being a kid back in the forties or fifties: Riding my bike around town, buying candy at the General Store and sitting on the porch eating it; hiking up Barkley Mountain by myself and not coming home til the fire whistle blew at six; long summer afternoons spent with my best friend, both of us reading library books. It was so easy having perfect days when I was twelve, I never even noticed I was having them at the time.
HANK: Julia, you have to use that last line in an essay or short story! It's the perfect line.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, gosh, what an interesting question, Rhys. Not weddings--although both mine have been small, you just want to get through the day. Maybe my second wedding DAY, though. Rick and I made a reservation to stay at a B&B in the Texas Hill Country. It's a beautiful drive, and when we arrived it was the most wonderful old farmhouse on acres of land with a creek, and stone patio filled with hummingbirds, and wonderful porches. (This was the middle of May!) We made instant friends with the owners, and we're still friends twenty-two years later, although they no longer run their place as a B&B.
So many others. Wonderful childhood days with my best friend (who I get to see next weekend!). Trips with my parents. My first glimpse of England from the plane. So many days in London, including many Saturdays at Portobello Market. Finding out my first book had sold--but that was more shock. First book signing with my parents and my daughter there.
And, of course, this year, seeing my granddaughter born was the most amazing day. But most of my favorite days are unspectacular, eating and drinking and visiting with friends and family.
RHYS: Now it's your turn: what was the best day of your life so far?