There's a movie called My Favorite Year, in which comedy writer Benjy Stone looks back on a particular week in the year he remembers most fondly. That's the main inspiration for this week's Weekend Assignment:
Weekend Assignment #204: Is there a year in your life to date that you remember with special fondness? When was it, and what made it so special?
Extra credit: Are you likely to have an even better year in the future, or is that year simply unbeatable?
Well, as one might expect by now, I'm going to fudge this assignment a little, because I really can't pick just one favorite year. (I can't pick one least favorite year either - that would be most of the stretch between mid-1999 and late 2004, and fortunately, it is not the topic of this assignment.) By the time you've reached my advanced age - 44 next month - it's nice if you can look back fondly on quite a few years in your past, and it's difficult to single out one as "the best."
I lived 36 of my nearly 44 years in the 20th century, so I decided it was OK to choose one favorite year from that group, and another post-2001. Both of my favorite years were transitional ones containing ceremony and changes.
I think of 1987 as my first real "grown-up" year. Although I'd been married and a mom for three years by then, my (first) husband and I started out our married life living with my parents, without whose help we would have had a much more difficult time managing a baby and finishing our undergraduate degrees "almost" on time (we took five years all together). They helped with child care and we contributed to living expenses, while also saving money from part-time work toward getting out on our own after graduation. For the most part the arrangement worked well, but things often got tense between my mother and me during the last several months, and it seemed like we would be moving out at just the right time. (Looking back from a parental perspective, though, I wonder how much of the tension on her side came from knowing that her little birds were leaving the nest; my sister was also graduating from college that spring, and while she'd gone away for school, she'd also made it clear she had no desire to move back home afterwards.)
Senior year of college was a busy time for both First Husband and me. We both had full class schedules; I was active in several campus groups; he had his own activities and part-time work, but his biggest project was his grad-school applications. He applied to four chemistry programs and was actively courted by three of them; after campus visits, it didn't take him long to decide that his first choice was Cornell. By then, it was springtime, and we were preparing both for our commencements (we weren't at the same college, so I actually earned my bachelor's degree about three weeks before he did) and a cross-country movefrom Florida to the Finger Lakes region of New York. I'm a New York native - the city, that is, and had been no further north than Poughkeepsie at that point. First Husband, and our son, were both Florida natives and had no idea what genuinely cold weather was like.
We departed for Ithaca, NY at the end of June, taking about five days to drive up from Tampa Bay with a stopover in Atlanta. Our son Christopher's third birthday occurred during our first week in our new home, a two-bedroom apartment in one of the student-family-housing complexes on the edge of the Cornell campus. We were getting to know some of the other grad students, both married and single, but not many of our new friends had children; as a novelty, Christopher became something of a mascot among the group.
Grad school in the sciences is pretty much a full-time job, but I needed to get to work myself. Since I had majored in business, I was ready to start my career, and even though a small college town didn't offer a big range of opportunities, I was set against taking just any student-spouse office-clerk job. As it happened, I lucked into a temp job in the university accounting office in August, and was hired full-time in November. The work wasn't quite what I'd expected or prepared for, but it was valuable first-job experience all the same (even though it took some years' distance for me to appreciate that properly). My life as a working mom began then, too; and with a three-year-old only child, the timing for the social setting preschool was just right.
I liked having our own place, keeping my own house, spending time with my growing child - who was already starting to read at three-and-a-half, which was a joy to my book-loving heart - and getting used to our new town. Since our move had been so recent, we stayed in Ithaca during the holiday break - and we had a white Christmas (but not until the second day)! The university closed its offices for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and the snowy break was a fine way to cap an exciting year.
The wedding-related hoopla wasn't the only big thing that year. We didn't have a honeymoon, but we had a couple of great vacation trips earlier in the year. Tall Paul and I had our first travel experience together in May, when we visited San Francisco for several days. We were carless by choice in the city; our hotel was on Nob Hill, at the intersection of the Powell & Hyde and California Street cable-car lines, so we wandered the city via cable car and on foot. We had great seats for a game at AT&T Park; our Dodgers were in town to play the Giants, and they almost pulled out a win. We rented a car on our third day and took the scenic drive down to Monterey - our stay in that area is what I'd like to repeat in that road trip I wrote about last week. We returned to San Francisco just in time to fly home.
In early summer, just after school let out, we spent a few days with the kids, the dog, and my soon-to-be Mom-in-law at the family fishing cabin in the Eastern Sierras, in between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. No one really fishes much since Tall Paul's father passed away, but it's still a beautiful, quiet, relaxing place to get away. One day we drove down to the ski resort at Mammoth Mountain, and I must say that it's strange but fun to be playing in snow during the third week of June.
But even with no shortage of remarkable events, what makes 2006 my favorite year is really the fact that it was the first full one that Tall Paul and I had together. Sharing our everyday lives together makes me think that maybe there's an even better year ahead of us, but I'd really be just fine if there isn't.
The Weekend Assignment is posted each Friday at Outpost Mâvarin; a roundup of responses goes up the following Thursday, so if you'd like to join in, you've still got some time!