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Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekend Assignment #204 (8) - My Favorite Year

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 move

from 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.

My favorite year of the 21st century - so far - was easier to pin down; 2006. The excitement began on February 5th, when my (second) husband (to be) proposed to me at sunset in Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, California. My first wedding had been a small and quick one, and while Tall Paul and I agreed that we didn't want anything elaborate - given that it would be a second wedding for us both - he was open to something "more" than I had before. You can read about all of it here and here - but suffice it to say that I greatly enjoyed my time as a bride-to-be, and my day as a bride, and am still enjoying every day with my husband!

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!

10 comments:

  1. Those are wonderful memories of good years. I love this post!

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  2. Donna - Thanks! I'm glad I started participating in these writing "assignments," even if I don't exactly follow them to the letter. I'm glad you enjoyed reading this one.

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  3. Good post. You seemed to have an easier time than most finding the best year(s). It's OK if you picked two in my book.

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  4. This is a wonderful post! It sounds like both years were full of change, moving forward, adventures and love.

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  5. Thank you for sharing another slice of your life with us! I think this would be a difficult question for me as well.

    Your wondering if the tension between you and your mother in 1987 was a result of the upcoming empty nest, reminded me of the last summer camping trip I went on with my family. My dad and I got into a huge argument. I was so furious with my dad for not seeing that I was an adult who could make up her own mind that it wasn't until much later that I realized he was feeling the pangs of a father losing his little girl. I was in such a rush back then to grow up and get out . . .

    You're so bad for me! You always draw me out. :-)

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  6. (Sorry, it looks like I've been negligent in commenting about the comments on this post! Let's catch up...)

    Mike - I haven't read the others yet (except yours); I'm waiting for Karen to post her roundup.

    Pam - They were both years that had a lot of the good kind of change. Offhand, though, I'd say my most life-changing year was 1984, since that's when I became a mom. Trite, but true...

    Literary Feline - But I like doing that, Wendy! :-) Since your own blogging is more about the books, I'm glad you don't mind sharing more about your life over here.

    And I suspect your perspective on your last camping trip is right. Sometimes it's hard for parents to prepare for letting our kids go, even though we're supposed to know the day is coming.

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  7. Nothing wrong with picking two favorites! I like that you have such a positive feeling toward 1987 despite its challenges.

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  8. Karen - This was a great assignment, but it was too hard to pick only one year. And picking 2006 all by itself was both too easy and too recent, so I wanted to stretch a bit.

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  9. Kudos for an upbeat answer. I think that's why I like your blog. You don't wallow.

    And yes, your mom was probably going through pre-empty nest anxiety. It wasn't so bad for me because I had a career, but it took an adjustment for Hubby & me to be "alone." We adjusted to being "just us" and then the grandkids came along. Now we have our hands full again -- having them visit or visiting them. I guess John Lennon was right "life is what happens while your busy making other plans."

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  10. Kiva - John Lennon was right about quite a few things. :-)

    I try not to do too much wallowing on the blog. I may share not-great stuff here sometimes, but wallowing in it isn't helpful for me, nor is it enjoyable for anyone else, and I'd like to attract readers, not drive them away. I may come across as more "upbeat" here than I think I really am, but that may not be a bad thing.

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