The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

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Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

God, there’s so much riding on a sentence like that. Tell me when the first day’s over, will you?

There’s too much expectation of those twenty-four hours — the first day of school, the first day at a new job, the first Christmas as a married couple, the first day home from the hospital with a newborn, the first night in the new house — honestly? I feel sorry for those poor, neurotic first days. They’re like those uptight, nerdy kids you went to school with — the ones who flagellated themselves before a test and always scored an A+ after the fact.

As a new mother, I was overwhelmed by all the firsts that parenting books and retail stores chastised me into documenting for my children. Did I have their first onesies embroidered with their initials and birthdates? What? Embroidery and exhausted mothers don’t mix. Dear God, no. My children both explosively pooped in their onesies, in hues and textures that no tiny infant should actually be able to produce. It was as if Jackson Pollock had been renting studio space in their Pampers. Why would I put evidence of their irritable bowels into attractive shadowbox frames?

Had I saved the first lock of hair from each child’s first haircut? I saved my daughter’s, I think. It’s in a manila envelope somewhere up in the attic. If I’m accused of murder, the police will probably find it up there somewhere as physical evidence, before I have any hope of actually finding it and pasting it into her baby book. My son squirmed and flailed so much at his first haircut that he, my husband and the barber all should have required stitches and tetanus shots. I don’t have an engraved sterling silver box that holds all of my children’s baby teeth. I did manage to bronze some baby shoes. But that’s only because I had a coupon.

[God help poor Russell.]

Sadly, I stopped writing down firsts in my son’s baby book right about the time he started crawling. If he questions me about this, later in life, I’ll ask him if he wanted to survive infancy without any mortal injuries from toppling furniture, or if he wanted a nice, happy story about the first time he said “banana.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m terribly sentimental. I have box upon box stuffed with my children’s artwork, stories and school papers down in the basement. So much so that my husband has taken to calling me “Mrs. Collyer.” I keep random, meaningful things — a clipping my grandfather kept from his beloved Racing Form, love letters from my husband on cocktail napkins and British air mail stationery, my father’s business card tucked into my wallet, with his advice to “think happy thoughts” before my first job interview, and relevant fortunes from Chinese takeout cookies (my daughter’s gotten me into the habit of tucking them into my cellphone case — so they should all be good and radiated by now, and should burst into flame any minute). But they weren’t “firsts.” They were just ordinary moments in my little life, same as yours, and ones that deserved as much attention as any old “first day” mementos attractively displayed in an engraved frame from the Exposures catalog.

If you ask me, I’m much more interested in experiencing the second day. The cameras are off, the crowds have dissipated, and the real stuff of life begins. Who wouldn’t rather be in their pajamas the day after Christmas, with all the idiocy and frenzy of holiday prep behind you, and nothing on the agenda but nibbling at the leftover Christmas roast and laughing about Aunt Myrtle’s latest rendition of the Christmas sweater? Do we not love the second day of school even more when we realize that — sweet merciful Mother of God — summer is truly over, and we are no longer to be peppered with the incessant questioning of “What can we do nooowwwwww?” by our bored, sweaty offspring? And that — oh, my — they’re another grade up, they’re another year older, and these days are sifting so silently and quickly through our fingers. The second day, the third day — the every day — are all so precious.

Isn’t the second day of marriage wonderful? Mine sure was.

My husband and I missed a connecting flight to our honeymoon destination in Greece, so we holed up in a drab hotel near London’s Gatwick Airport, watched TV, ordered up bad room service and cheap champagne, and reveled in being husband and wife. The first day of our marriage was hairspray and tuxedos and floral pins and lots of lipstick smudges. Our wedding day was delightful — make no mistake. But the second day? The second day was just us, me and him, laughing together at British TV commercials and loving each other, and spending an entire night in bed, talking about where the rest of our days would take us. It was right. It was what we thought it would be all along. It was also messy, because we spilled champagne all over the place. It was one of the best days of my life, knowing that I’d picked the right man to be my husband. And that he’d picked me. And that it was a wondrous miracle that we’d found each other, out here in the world.

I’ll take the second day, no question. And every day after that. Every day that I’m lucky enough to be given.

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  1. So true! We forget its the everydays we have together that are just as special as the firsts.

  2. Gosh. Isn’t that true. Too much only child perfection stuff going on with the first day! Bring on the second. And you can tell your second that even my first’s is not all that well documented. I also decided that survival (of both mother and child!) was more important!

  3. You are right on the money. Too much pressure on those first days. I always like the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas when everyone is still around and just hanging out. That’s why I like weekend wedding destinations too, the brunch the day after is always much more fun- even the night before at the rehearsal is easier going.

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