An Ordinary Special Day

By Diane Stark

“Nathan, why haven’t you worn your new Star Wars shirt yet?” I asked.

My nine-year-old son came into his room where I was filling his clothes organizer with outfits to wear to school in the days ahead. But for the last three weeks, the same outfit had remained in the organizer. I didn’t understand why.

“You were so excited when we bought that shirt,” I said. “I figured you’d wear it right away.”

Nathan shrugged. “It’s brand new, so I’m saving it.”

“Saving it for what?”

“I don’t know. Like a special day.”

“Okay, Honey,” I said. “The reason we use the organizer is so you can choose your own clothes each day, so it’s up to you when you wear it.”

He nodded. “I’ll probably wear it on my birthday. That’ll be a special day.”

“Your birthday is still several weeks away. Go ahead and wear the shirt, and I’ll wash it before then. That way, you can wear it now and then again on your birthday.”

He thought for a minute. “No, I think I’ll save it. It’s such a cool shirt. It needs to be saved for a special day.”

I smiled, knowing I wouldn’t change his mind. “It’s up to you, Bud.” I patted his shoulder. “I’m going to start dinner now. I’m making chicken quesadillas.”

I went downstairs, still musing at my son’s “old soul” attitude toward wearing his new shirt. I found it funny that a kid who loves instant gratification was saving his favorite shirt for a special day.

I opened the refrigerator to grab the ingredients I needed for dinner. I grabbed a bag of shredded cheese and smiled at what I found underneath. It was a package of pre-cooked, grilled chicken strips. They were expensive, so I didn’t buy them often, but I loved the convenience of having half of the dinner prep work done for me.

I held the package of chicken in my hand, debating whether I should use it that night or not. Because of the extra expense, I tried to save them for nights when I was especially busy or especially tired. I decided that tonight didn’t qualify and I could make the chicken strips myself the old-fashioned way.

I started to put the package back in the refrigerator when the expiration date caught my eye. The chicken strips had expired two weeks ago.

I sighed, irritated with myself. I hated wasting food, especially a pricey item like this.

I thought of all of the nights when I could’ve used the chicken, but instead, I’d decided that I wasn’t busy enough or tired enough to deserve the convenience. I’d saved them for a night when I really needed the extra help.

And now, I had to throw them away.

As I set about making dinner, I realized how often I’d put off treating myself well, even when it was easily within my ability to do so. Television shows I enjoyed watching sat unviewed on our DVR for weeks on end because I didn’t allow myself to watch them until my To Do List was complete. And since I never completed everything on my To Do List, I never got to enjoy my shows. The same thing happened with novels I wanted to read and friends I wanted to meet for lunch or coffee.

Somehow, I’d developed a thought process that required me to earn time to relax. When had self-care become something I had to earn? Why did “me time” always come last on my To Do List?

I’d gotten into a bad habit, and worse yet, I feared I’d passed the pattern onto my son.

The phone rang. It was my mother-in-law. “What’s wrong?” She asked.  “You sound upset.”

I sighed and told her what was wrong.

Ten minutes later, I got off the phone, feeling much better.

I looked at the shredded cheese and rethought my dinner plan. I remembered that three weeks ago, I’d made a double batch of taco meat. I’d frozen the extra meat so that I could take another night off from cooking.

Normally, I’d save the taco meat for a dinner emergency, just like I had the chicken strips that were now in the trash.

But no more of that. Tonight was the night.

I tossed the frozen container in the microwave and then called for Nathan. “Bring a book,” I said. “We’re going to read together while dinner thaws.”

He came running with a smile on his face. Reading together was his favorite thing. We snuggled on the couch, reading instead of cooking. It felt terrific.

When the taco meat was thawed, we ate, using the paper plates I save for busy nights when I don’t have time to wash dishes. I grinned, realizing that using paper plates made me as happy as some people feel when they pull out their fancy china.

“We’re eating on paper plates, so we can read some more after dinner,” I told Nathan.

He grinned. “All of the sudden, today feels like a special day.”

I grinned back. “I know, and we have Grandma to thank. She told me not to save the good china for a special day that may never come. She said we should enjoy the little things each day, and that can make every day feel special. We can’t wait for someday.” My smile grew. “Nathan, someday is today.”

My mother-in-law raised eight kids in an era when self-care wasn’t even thought about. But her wise words taught me that treating myself well isn’t something I should have to earn. We all deserve to relax and enjoy small pleasures, even if what makes you happy is eating tacos on paper plates so you have more time to read.

The following morning, Nathan chose to wear his new Star Wars shirt. When I asked him about it, he said, “I decided to make today a special day. You know, just for fun.”

I grinned at my son, so grateful for this ordinary, special day.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark

    Diane Stark

    Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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