When our daughter was little -- old enough to speak, but barely -- she begged my husband for a snow cone at the state fair. "It's flavored ice," he told me in protest. "And they want how much for it?"
I wasn't proposing we feed her only snow cones from here on out -- but they were calling to me, too. We went back and forth about it for a little while, and (you guessed it) Katie got her snow cone.
She was young, but she was old enough to know how she felt about how long it had taken us to reach this decision.
She took the much-lobbied-for snow cone, looked at Darrell, and dumped it on the ground. I say "dumped it" now, but I wouldn't have said it then. It was an accident. It had to have been. She wasn't old enough to give someone the proverbial finger.
I defended her for years. Darrell was sure she'd done this on purpose. I was sure she hadn't. One day we got to talking about it with Katie. And guess what? She had done it on purpose.
As bad days go, this one was right up there.
But of anything we laugh about, this incident tops the list. You've probably noticed the same thing. The worst times make the best memories. It's only logical, I suppose. Do you howl with laughter during the movie if the heroine, in her beautiful evening gown, gracefully descends the staircase? No. Much more entertaining when her heel catches on something and she takes a tumble over the railing, falling headfirst into the punchbowl.
Here's one secret to life. Shorten the time between having a really bad day and knowing you'll have a really good story.
That would've been a comfort when I was in the first grade -- the day I got sick in front of all my friends just before we climbed the stairs to our classroom. I was at the head of the line and thought I'd die from embarrassment. At first. Then I decided, "No. You haven't done anything wrong. You're not the first kid to get sick in school, and you won't be the last. The janitor will come and sprinkle whatever it is on the evidence, and our 6-year-old lives will go on. You just march up those steps like nothing happened." At which point I fell in it.
Then there was the time when, as a new cocktail waitress, I was delivering six tall beers to a table full of people celebrating something -- I can't remember what it was. As I approached, I took particular note of one woman's gorgeous, and obviously expensive, blue dress. And just as I reminded myself what a disaster it would be if I lost my balance I... lost my balance. I can still hear the sound of glasses shattering as they hit the table and then the floor. It was one of those slow-motion moments you never forget.
Everything got very quiet then. The entire restaurant fell silent. Everyone looked at me, wondering -- I was sure -- how I was going to recover. The thing was, I had no idea. Just when I thought I might die from embarrassment, my friend Paul, a food server, appeared. He looked at the woman with the stunning blue dress, now soaked, and said, "Well, I guess the drinks are on you tonight!" Everyone laughed. The manager swooped in with a voucher for dry cleaning, and asked me for that tab so he could comp the check. It was soaking wet just like everything else, and fell apart as he tried to run it through the register.
When my first book was published, I got a big writeup in the largest newspaper in the state. That's the good news. The bad news? The critic hated it. I sobbed off and on for days. My husband was okay at first, but then he grew impatient -- so I turned to Katie, now 7, for support. "You think that's bad?" she exclaimed. "A girl in my class said the snacks you made taste like laundry soap. And she's tasted laundry soap so she knows!"
You can have your perfectly curated Facebook presence. Spare me the holiday card that makes it look like you stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Give me the raw, unedited footage of your life.
We'll kick back with some popcorn and soda and enjoy the show.