Sunday, April 10, 2011

your best day (not to be confused with VH1's Best Week Ever)

Since I drive so much, I listen to a lot of podcasts and books on tape (Pro tip: if you love fiction, you must subscribe to the New Yorker fiction podcast. Start with the one where they read Bullet in the Brain. You will not regret this.).

A darling friend who's also a commuter handed off the Dave Eggers book about Sudanese lost boys, What is the What. I'd heard mixed reviews, but I'm totally engrossed. If you're feeling at all self-pitying and want to get the eff over yourself, check it out. Though if you're sensitive to, like, children being eaten by lions, watch out.

There's one part early on where the semi-fictional narrator is talking about how the walking boys -- refugees who have largely witnessed the slaughter of their entire villages -- have a hard time sleeping. They're orphans traveling across the desert with no water or food. Some of them have shoes. Boys stagger off the trail and die all along the way. I guess all that makes it a little difficult to catch Zs. One of their leaders (just a bigger boy) instructed them, as they lay down in a circle to protect themselves, to put together in your mind your best day. Think of your favorite breakfast. Then your favorite afternoon, your favorite evening. The narrator's best day includes a pretty girl, a bicycle, his mother's yellow dress.

So as I lay in bed the other night having a hard time getting to sleep, I thought about piecing together my best day. But I didn't actually end up doing that, because I quickly thought of one day that -- front to back -- was nearly perfect in itself. My 29th birthday.

My birthday is in December, and this year it was on a Sunday. It started at midnight, in a bar. I had gone out with my roommate, who'd just become my boyfriend, and one of my best friends. As we left one bar and staggered to the next, it started to snow, and we giggled and slid around. I honestly don't remember going to the last bar, but I found out later that when we walked inside, my glasses fogged up, so I took them off and stood, swaying and smiling. When someone (an acquaintance?) said hi, I blinked blindly and cheerfully said, "It's my birthday!"

I do remember that my darling roommate had stayed sober and drove us home, and on the way, I instructed him to go do some cookies in the snow somewhere. He obliged.

The next morning, my new love woke me with a thoughtful gift, and made me eggs benedict on croissants -- if you think that sounds too rich to be good, you're incorrect. Hollandaise cures hangovers, by the way.

It snowed all day. If I lived in a different town than Bend, my party would have been canceled. But the troopers started pulling into my driveway right on time, and they hucked their shoes and snowy coats in a growing pile by the door, and started filling the kitchen, unloading bags of food and wine.

I'd recently become enamored (via Lynn Rosetto Casper and a book that I refuse to link to Amazon for, because you should do like I did and order it from your local independent bookseller, goddamit, or at least from Powells) with homemade Asian dumplings, but they're really time-consuming to make. So I assigned each of about a half dozen of my gals to a filling, then told them to come over early and be ready to roll, fold, crimp and stuff. My poor roomate was stuck with a house full of chatting women who pushed up their sleeves, poured glasses of wine and got to work. As the trays of dumplings piled up, I turned on every burner of the stove and started steaming, frying and pot-sticking. The house filled with glorious smells, and the windows fogged with steam. The house hummed with our cheerful chatter.

As it got dark out, and we transitioned from cooking to eating, the husbands and boyfriends came knocking. Each time we opened the door, steam poured out into the night. Cars and even bikes piled up in the snow in my yard.

One of the husbands showed up with his two boys (whom I adore not least because as soon as they learned my name they became quite fond of it, and every time I see them they shout "Elliiiiiiiie," and how can you not love that? ) to drop off a gift for me, tease me, and bring his wife a Chanukah gift.

We ate until we were about to burst, then we tucked into the largest chocolate orange cream cake I've ever seen (The sad note here being that this cake was made by a former friend, one of those love/hate friends. We started teetering farther toward hate than love, and after I left the state without saying goodbye, she unfriended me on Facebook. I can't decide which of us is more petty.).

Anyway. This is all to say: My best day. Hot boyfriend (yeah, you know there are details of the day I'm leaving out. Use your imaaaaaagination.). Cooking and eating good food. And piles of my brilliant, hilarious friends.

Miss you guys.