SMILEY

People are always telling us to have one. That yellow icon is stuck all over everything from produce to car bumpers. We say it in parting. “Have a good day.” 

When I was in my twenties, newly married and footloose, a good day usually meant hot dogs on a grill, lots of beer and friends, and a game of charades if it was cold weather, or something like lawn darts if it was warm. Nobody had any money, but we all had plenty of options. 

In my thirties, a good day meant no projectile vomiting or colic, everybody took naps, and if it was a supremely good day, we all went to McDonalds for Big Macs and Happy Meals. And everybody slept through the night. 

In my forties, good days were a lot harder to come by. By then, working late at the office was common. After work, there was a thrown-together supper, followed by some sort of parental requirement, involving knee pads (oops, forgot them—rush back home to the hysterical cries of the player involved, scolding the entire way home and back), raffle tickets, mortar boards, or prom pictures. 

Ah, the fifties. These are the new forties. This decade is full of good days. Of course, in order to have good days, you have to have the ultimate bad ones: the days when you load the car with clothes, a mini-fridge, two bulletin boards, a computer, and one college freshman. Sobbing all the way home, you feel that there will never be another good day. But magically, two weeks later, you have enrolled in a pottery class, you announce that you may have cooked your last meal, and you discover that sleeping in is NOT overrated. 

Now I am in my sixties. None of your business how far in, for Pete’s sake. A good day. Let’s see. There’s coffee at Starbucks. I can go there every day. No commute, whew! I look back on the days when I was too poor to afford a pedicure, and I wonder how I ever wore sandals. I still don’t cook much, and now when I look in the fridge and say, “Do you want eggs for dinner? Because there isn’t anything else in here,” we get to go to a restaurant that has a wine list and French pastries. I have a fully loaded Kindle and a new, tiny car that reminds me of the one I drove in high school. I can go up and down stairs just fine. And I can balance on one foot.

I am not sure what the future holds. I certainly hope for a huge amount of good days to come. But in the back of my mind floats an image of a woman in a wheelchair, sitting in the sun of some assisted living patio, squinting at a caregiver who, as she adjusts my blanket and puts the lock on the wheels so I won’t careen off somewhere, gaily announces, “Have a good day, sweetie!” That will be my first truly bad one.

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