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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Best Days

Optima dies...prima fugit. Translation: "The best days are the first to flee."

This particular theme of Willa Cather's My Antonia struck me last weekend as I finished re-reading the novel on our trip to the Iowa Games. It was almost eerie.

best days of our li-i-ves
Cole is a pretty happy kid. But when you set him in an environment with his buddies to play soccer, swim, and watch sci-fi movies... he's beyond euphoric. We could hardly convince him to eat a cheesburger–which is basically his fuel. He was too busy hanging with the guys.

When all the festivities came to that screech of a halt, and we found ourselves on the ride back home, I noticed Cole's glum expression.

"Sad, buddy?"

"I just didn't want it to end."

optima dies...prima fugit.

When I asked him the other day how he would've ranked the weekend, he told me he was waking up every day, wishing he were still at the Iowa Games. He said he's feeling nostalgic. Nostalgic. And he's twelve.

It certainly seems our memory tends to look back and pick out certain times of our lives as the best days. Now that my daughter is edging closer to entering college, I'm constantly telling her how this will most likely be the best time of her life. While it's been twenty-some years, I think back to Iowa City so fondly. The smell of the trees. The scampering squirrels. Walking by the Iowa River to class. I might've even attended a party or two.

The mind seems to do wonderful tricks, doesn't it? Because I'm almost certain my college days weren't quite so picture perfect. My mom might attest to a few teary phone calls. Being completely broke is usually not a lot of fun. And I'm pretty sure I didn't ace every class, like I intended. But I rarely think about those times. I usually divulge my memories with those times when my senses were most happily engaged.

With no disrespect to the estimable Willa Cather, (who actually quoted Virgil), I'm not so sure if the best days are the first to flee. I think it just feels like it at times. Just the other day, I was feeling pretty nostalgic about last summer...and those certainly aren't my first days! As a matter of fact, I'm really looking forward to a few other things (mainly trips) that I have planned for me and my family. Is it possible to be nostalgic about future events?

I was listening to a 90-year-old author on NPR the other day. She was asked about the favorite time of her life. She said her favorite decade was in her fifties. This response certainly could be different for everyone–especially when you're in your nineties. But as I think about how my life has evolved, I have to admit, I'd probably say the best time of my life is right now. Unless a time machine is invented, this is what I'll tell my kids they need to believe every day: The best time in your life needs to be now.