Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Best Day of my LIfe

RHYS BOWEN: There is currently a commercial for a casino running all the time on TV here and the song is "Today is the best day of my life."
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 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?


  1. As each of you have observed, there are many “best days” in our lives, even if many of them are not recognized for what they are until we take the time to look back on them.

    Success and recognition at work can be wonderful moments but, for me, spending time with family, with children and grandchildren define those truly best days.

    Best days are often wrapped up in pulling off a super-fantastic surprise and knowing you’ve just made a “best day” for someone else . . . .

  2. One of the best days ... the Thanksgiving that my husband and I played hookey from all the extended family drama and rented a houseboat on Lake Powell, taking along lobsters to grill in lieu of turkey. The calm water, the waterbirds, the silence ... it was great. Being the birth coach for my niece when she had her first child was truly remarkable. That little baby Jenny is now a gorgeous 28-year-old adventurer and world traveler and a terrific person -- and she's been special to me since her first breath. Having dinner tonight at a local Japanese restaurant along the oceanfront in Rancho Palos Verdes with my stepdaughter/best friend just catching up, laughing and drinking a little sake as the sun went down -- pretty wonderful. There are more, fortunately -- and they help offset some of the less stellar times. I live right on the ocean and very often, just that half hour or so of dramatic sunset is enough to make that moment, that day, pretty perfect.

  3. Oh, the entire time I was reading this blog half my mind was in turmoil recalling and discarding candidates for the perfect day like an early computer when someone put in a key punch card with an extra punch. There have been many great days, but like Hank, I think the pluperfect best day is yet to come.

  4. Love these answers! Joan, what a great choice--pulling off a surprise and making someone else's best day...

    And PK--love the idea of your say-no-thanksgiving!

    And Kait, here's hoping all our best days are in the near future! and then more after that (yes I'm greedy:)

  5. So many perfect days--how to pick just one? My second (and last, I suspect) wedding day, which started with Steve picking me up at the airport in Vegas with an armload of flowers in the middle of the night. We got married at 11:30 AM, had a celebratory drink (mine was brandy Alexander!) across the street with my aunt, who had stood up for us. That evening Steve, who was in the middle of a seven-week lecture tour, gave a talk and I was introduced for the first of a million times as "Steve's lovely wife Karen", but no one but us knew we'd gotten hitched in a little chapel that morning. It was like a delicious secret.

    And Julia, we also had so many wonderful days in Tanzania, but one in particular. Our guide drove us to Northern Serengeti, to the Masai Maru River area, but on the way we passed through the most amazing valley. Most people chose to fly this route (long, bouncy, dusty), but when Steve and our other friend were putting the trip together they didn't realize the distance. Our guide stopped the safari vehicle so we could attempt to take it all in, but it was so overwhelming. Tens of thousands of animals, all grouped by species: giraffes, elephants, baboons, wildebeest, hippos, zebras, and three or four different kinds of deer-like animals. As far as the eye could see. We were all so overcome we barely took photos--and photos were the whole point of the trip. Later that day we also saw a rare rhinoceros and her earless (because of the tiny gene pool) calf, and we got within thirty feet of them. We held our breaths the whole time, and Kim and I were close to sobbing, knowing the calf would most likely never reach adulthood because of the predation.

    We've all had pretty great lives, haven't we? Hank, I love that picture of you and Jonathan!

  6. Oh Karen thank you! Yes I think we look so happy.....

    Tens of thousands of animals? Wow. That must have been astonishing.
    We are so lucky to be able to have trouble choosing!

  7. It is spectacular that all of you have trouble deciding on which day was the best of your life. I've had many of the same sort of days, birth of children, birth of grandchildren, delivering all those little Hopi and Navajo babies on the reservation, having the privilege of attending so many births and even deaths. How does one day stand out from all the rest?

    I think it was when I held my eldest son's first and only child. Max is bi-racial, and in the way of mixed race children, he was born incredibly beautiful, other worldly even. His dear mother, 45 at the time of the birth of her little mocha miracle, was exhausted, so I sent her to bed to stay for the week I could be there. At intervals I brought her a clean dry hungry baby to feed, but the rest of the time I had Max all to myself. I can still smell his head, feel his sweet mouth nuzzling my neck.

    Now he is an almost twelve-year old cello playing choir singing basketball starring pre-adolescent, a darker version of a Raphael cherub.

    1. Ann, those are wonderful memories! And I love your description of your grandson as "a darker version of a Raphael cherub

  8. Karen, love your wedding story! And the animals… Safari is on our bucket list. Now that I'm starting to feel a little better but not old yet LOL, we better get hopping

  9. Two thoughts.
    Five years ago I shattered the bone that inserts into the knee from the shin - tibia plateu. I couldn't walk on it for 12 weeks, but after about 8 weeks I was allowed to walk in the swimming pool. That was a best day.

    On March 16, 2016 all six of my adult children, plus 2 daughter-in-laws and 3 granddaughters gathered from all corners of the world, including Colorado, Washington DC, Chile and Tonga. First time being all together in six years. Probably my best day so far. Probably every future best day will be the next times they all get together again.

    More days coming to mind -- my birthday 10 years ago. I was camping with friends and my youngest son. None of them knew it was my birthday. We were four-wheeling in beautiful country. All day it was my secret perfect day.

    And a perfect ski day.

  10. Kathy V... your knee recovery sounds like a "and then I stopped banging my head against the floor" BEST moment. Like when you get a cast that's been itching for weeks taken off, or stitches removed. And I get it that it's even better when it's a secret that only you know (like when I knew I was pregnant but no one else did.)

  11. Joan, I agree with you - there's a special sort of wonderful to making someone else's best day ever.

    Hank, if you ever write a memoir, you have to put that picture on the cover!

  12. Hank, that photo is fabulous.

    And it reminded me of another best day, spent in Paris with my daughter, wandering through the streets on the Left Bank, stopping for coffees in the cafes...

    What a nice way to spend a Saturday, thinking of more and more 'best days.' Thanks, Rhys!

  13. A best day? One that stands out is my mom's last Christmas with us. She was ill and frail, but the house was full of family. Several of her sisters had come to visit besides the usual clan of my siblings and nephews. Friends of mine had a bluegrass band at the time and had given me a cassette tape of some of their songs. I played it for my mom--everyone was laughing and enjoying the music when my mom suddenly got up and started dancing. She was laughing, her sisters were laughing, we're applauding, and my dad is just sitting there with the biggest grin--so full of joy--on his face. And Christmas was her birthday--but what a gift she gave us that day!

  14. Like everyone else, trying to pick the perfect day is pretty much an impossible endeavor. I, too, look to family when I think of perfect days. Learning that I was pregnant with my daughter and then my son were perfect days, as I had had so much trouble getting pregnant and then had suffered a tubal pregnancy and loss of one of my tubes. Of course, their births were wonderful, too, but knowing that my dreams were coming true to have children, well, that was a joy I feared I'd never know. And, then the birth of my granddaughter Isabella, that was indeed a perfect day. She has made me realize that every step I have taken in my life has led to this amazing child, so I was on a perfect path.

    Recently, I took my daughters and granddaughters to my hometown, where we walked the streets of the small downtown where I had roamed as a child and teenager, took pictures in front of landmark places of my growing up, ate at a diner that had been there since time began, and spent time with my brother and his large family. That was a perfect weekend. I wish my son had been there, too, but next time. Perfect day was going to a midnight Harry Potter reveal party with my son when he was growing up, getting interviewed for the paper with him, and rushing home to start reading the latest HP together. Perfect day was when my husband and I were first married and living in a small apartment and I threw a spoonful of jelly at him and he said he loved me and, well...

    Of course, there are perfect days that include my reading life, first day of my first Bouchercon, meeting you wonderful Reds, having dinner with favorite authors, and, of course, sharing reading with my kids and grandkids. It seems even a perfect day otherwise is always a little more perfect with some reading at the end of it.

  15. I just got home from a week of those perfect days - on vacation in a big cottage in Maine, with a short walk to a cool clear swimming pond stocked with kayaks and loons. Both my adult sons, one's girlfriend, my sister (my kids' favorite auntie), plus Hugh and me. Like Hallie, I can't get enough of watching my boys, cooking for them, laughing with them. Really the best. And - I didn't work a LICK and barely checked email.

  16. A perfect day for me is when it is not too cold nor not too hot outside. It has to be just right!

    Many best days in my life - I practice gratitude. I stop and think about what I am grateful for in my life. As a child, I almost died from meningitis and I learned to take one day at a time. I have this penchant for enjoying what life has to offer.

    The best day of my life, so far, is the day I became 18 years old and I could register to vote. I had many wonderful experiences like lunching at the House of Parliament with a friend's friend who was a MP when I was studying abroad, going to my first Malice and meeting great authors.


  17. There have been lots of good days, and lots of bad days. I don't like listing them, because so many of the really good days were so long ago: the day I was selected to be a page at the 1964 Democratic Convention (the other five pages, all male, got their appointments via connections; I was the only female, and won mind by hard work!); the day in 1960 that I met JFK; the day the copies of my first (paperback) novel arrived; the day the first copies of my hardcover book arrived and when I took off the dust jacket, I saw that it was clothbound with silver lettering; the day it won a statewide prize for best nonfiction book that year. Maybe the day my agent and I had a long lunch with my editor for that book-- just after I signed the contract-- and for hours, the three of us laughed until tears ran down our faces. All of those are a long time ago.

    Maybe most recently it was the day I finished my book on the Constitution, a herculean effort performed in record time during a dreadful winter. But that's five years ago.

    More recently, I think every day I manage to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is a happy one. And any day the sun shines. You play the hand that's dealt you.