September 8, 2021

1 of 301: A day to relive

By Daniel

I’m going to try something. I picked up a few books about a week ago week ago to try and calm the chaos of my mind a little bit. One, oddly enough, is called Calm The Chaos. I also picked up Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, and a Success Journal. I was talking about this with Diana, and I’ve talked about it here in the past as well, reaching out for self-help materials is a significant step for me, one that I’ve clearly wavered on in the last few years.

I bought a book that purports to teach me how to draw, probably the biggest and most senseless area of personal shame I’ve had for basically my whole life.

Another book that I picked up, not counting a beautiful but simple ruled journal, is 301 Writing Ideas. I still remember very strongly someone telling me, and I’ve mentioned this here before as well, that if I continued to write, it would justify their career as a writer. It’s hard to articulate how I feel about that.

But I can definitely write. So I’m going to be reading off the prompts and giving them a try to answer. I’m considering trying to do one a week, a task that would stretch this out to Wednesday, June 16th, 2027. Being able to see this out for 301 weeks would be, obviously, a commitment such as I’ve never managed before. You can’t know how it’ll go unless you try, right?

What is a day that you wish you could relive?

This is more difficult to pick than it first appeared. At first reading, you would assume that it would be a sentimental day, one of love or loss. Or maybe it’s a day of the highest of highs, to experience it once more. A wedding day, the birth of a child, graduation day,

Maybe this isn’t a “see it again” sort of day, but one you could interact with in a new way. In that case, maybe you’re more pragmatic. Maybe you want to relive the day where you could buy 10,000 Bitcoin for 20 bucks ($474 million today, which might be laughably high or low by the time you read this). Or the day that the Powerball was over a billion dollars with no winner. Something that would let you provide for your family.

Maybe you would want to do something heroic. Maybe you want to relive September 10th, 2001. Maybe it’s January 27th, 1986, so as to avert the Challenger explosion. Maybe it would be September 12th, 2018, so I could have somehow avoided the dying of a perfect stranger in a motorcycle accident that I was first on the scene to.

Let’s assume it’s a “see it again” day that you can’t really do anything differently in. That would, of course, lend itself to positive days. So when it hit me all at once that the day I would most want to relive was during an ice storm in the most racist town I’ve ever had the misfortune of living in, you might raise an eyebrow.

Let me explain.

It was the winter of 1998-1999. At this point in time, I’m living in a place that even folks living in the sticks would call the sticks, the debatable “town” of Culleoka, Tennessee, a place that housed K-12 in one building because there weren’t enough students to justify doing it any other way. A place about 9 miles up the road from Pulaski, Tennessee, birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and the scariest place I’ve ever been in.

The moment in time that justifies my decision is one in which not one, but both of my parents are still alive and healthy. A point in time where Mom’s cancer was in remission, and Dad hadn’t yet torn up his body so much that he couldn’t work.

Prior to the winter of ’98, I’d spent my entire life either in Puerto Rico or south Florida. I actually thought snow was something dreamed up by Hollywood. What greeted me in my first winter, actually the first snow, was the worst ice storm in this shit town’s recorded history. I have a memory that makes me laugh pretty hard now, of being let off the bus at the foot of my driveway.

Now, Google Maps has only bothered to go down this street twice ever, and neither one was while there was snow on the ground, much less ice. But I’m at the foot of the driveway there, and bear in mind I’ve only got little 10-year old legs. It’s solid ice. I can’t get up the hill. I would get up a little ways, and then lose my footing and slide my little ass back to the bottom. I did this for, no shit, at least a half hour. Finally, exhausted with the effort and positively freezing my ass off, I’m past the worst of it as the driveway starts to level out. I’m as pissed as a 10 year old really can be, and sticking out of the ice, just enough for a very bad idea to percolate in my little brain, was a Coca-Cola can. I decide to vent my frustrations on it, giving it a big ol’ kick.

Well, two things happened. One, I don’t even break the ice around this can of Coke, but I may well have broken my toes. Unthinking, I jump up and grab my injured right foot. Two, jumping makes me lose my balance and I slide, top to bottom, all the way down that driveway one more time.

It may surprise you, but that is not the day I want to relive.

But it is in the days after the brunt of that storm, when things go from completely iced over to pleasantly crunchy. Directly behind the view you see above is my neighbor across the street, who has four kids.

See that area up the hill between the silver garage and the big tree?

It was at this time that I got a sled, actually a word that I hesitate to use because it was basically an upside-down trash can lid made of cheap plastic. A cursory Google search informs me that these are called saucer sleds.

My friend, that was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, taking that sled down that hill all day. There was enough ice that you could build up a surprising amount of speed, and you can see how much open land there was to keep going, which was very easy on that much ice.

The thing that turns this from a fun day to the one I’d want to relive was the inclusion of both my parents in the festivities. My dad was having the time of his life, I don’t think he’d had the opportunity to do any of this since he was a kid. My mom, in the name of family bonding, gave it a try. And oh boy, was she scared to death. The thing I most vividly remember was her going not particularly fast, but yelling out for my dad, “Danny! Danny!” Terrified. I thought it was absolutely hysterical, and after a while she did too.

Unlike almost any relivable day I can think of, this one has a non-zero chance of being able to be relived. My dad recorded this day on a camcorder, on those little tapes you could get, and I vividly remember us playing it back on the big TV in the living room.

I don’t think we ever looked at those tapes again, but Dad held onto them until the day he died in 2017. I found them, camcorder and all, in his garage.

I know there are places that will do their best to restore video tapes like this, in fact I know exactly where one such place is, since it was only a few doors down from a customer at CSA.

I threw those tapes away.