The Best Day Ever

One day in his fifth grade year, DJ had the best day of his life. I know he did because he told me. And I remember he did because it was springtime.

Spring in New England is a special time. Winters are brutal and cold. The kids adjust. They hang up bathing suits and strap on hockey skates. They put down baseball bats and pick up sleds.

But when springtime comes around, there is one communal sigh. The trees flower. The grass turns vivid green. The babies, who you met as infants in the fall, take their first outside steps and smile those one-toothed smiles, feeling the grass caress their toes. Overnight, colors are everywhere. And the noises are different, too. Birds and crickets and kids screaming. Dog walkers smile at friends. And strangers. We rejoice together in the rebirth of our world. Springtime in New England is why we survive winters. There is simply nothing as nice.

Except maybe fifth grade.

On the best day of DJ’s life, school got out at noon. It was one of the very many half days that elementary schools grant to keep busy parents on their toes. DJ arrived home at 6:30PM. With my other children, I would have been nervous. I would have been worried. But the world belongs to DJ. Sometimes I am scared for the world.

The door slammed. The door always slams when he comes home. That boy knows how to make an entrance.

And then he said it. I’d been waiting for it. Because these things tend to happen when you are no longer a little boy but not yet a big one.

Mom, he said. Today I had the best day of my life.

He dropped his backpack and kicked off his shoes.  I stood watching him, smiling, shaking my head. Feeling joy creep up from my belly and manifest itself in my smile.  I would like to be DJ. Or maybe his best friend. He just knows how to have a good time.

The details came fast and furious. All in one breath.

“First, I went to the Common. We played a big game of football. There were sixth graders there but they let fifth graders play. I couldn’t believe it. I scored three touchdowns. I am good at football. I didn’t know! Our team lost.  Then I got a slush. Do you know the kind I got? Crybaby. It’s so sour. I love it. Then I found a dollar. Right outside of the Common Market. Can you believe it, mom? I found it! Who would drop a dollar right there? Right where I would see it? First I got three touchdowns and then I found a dollar. It was lucky. Then we decided to play some baseball. And guess what mom? Remember that bat I thought I lost? I found it!  We played Homerun Derby. Brenny won. He hit 6 homeruns! He is so good. Do you know why? He can uppercut. I need to learn to uppercut. I need to work on my uppercut. Then I had the dollar, right? So we went to Comellas and I bought pizza. Just one slice. I was really hungry but it was still good. Me and CC and Brenny were just hanging out eating pizza. I felt like a man. I loved it. Then we walked home. Guess what? We saw Jack in his backyard and he invited us onto his trampoline. It was so fun!  We all walked together and then when we got to someone’s house, that kid would leave. And I was the last one and so I just ran home. It was the best day of my life.”

So there is this golden time. It is after the diaper changing and nose wiping. After holding my hand to cross the street and pre-arranged playdates. It is before noticing girls and worrying about your haircut. It is before car driving and after-school-job-getting.

And it is when the best day of your life usually happens.

In fifth grade, you have enough independence to go to the ballfield, but not enough to kill yourself in a drunk driving accident. You have enough wherewithall to spend that found dollar on a slice of pizza, but not enough to worry that the C you got in math could have an impact on your GPA. You don’t think about dates to the prom or college entrance exams.

There is nothing better than fifth grade. Especially in the springtime. In New England.

DJ will have many more best days of his life. He has only begun. He will win a Homerun Derby. He will earn enough money to buy an entire pizza. He will graduate from highschool. Own a car. Own a house. Maybe even have a little DJ of his own. But for now, he will treasure that day. That Fifth Grade Best Day. Do you remember yours?

2 thoughts on “The Best Day Ever”

  1. Colleen Eilbert

    “It was one of the very many half days that elementary schools grant to keep busy parents on their toes.” So many great stuff in this essay, but this made me laugh out loud.

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