This post was inspired by Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, the March selection of the online book club, From Left to Write. I received a complementary copy of the book from the publisher, but was not otherwise compensated to write this piece. Find out how other writers were inspired by the book here.
In the memoir, Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard likens her first date with her husband to the pseudo-snow days of her youth. Growing up, each year her mother let her choose her own snow day. The two of them would take the day off, sleep late, have a “backwards breakfast,” (ice cream first), and pretty much do whatever their hearts desired the rest of the day.
What a lovely tradition. It brought a favorite family memory of my own flooding back: My sister Jennifer and I were crammed into the backseat of Dad’s creamy Dodge Dart. Our parents, uncharacteristically happy, were giggling in the front. It seemed like we had been driving forever. “But where are we GOING?” we begged. They were silent on the subject and smirked in the rearview mirror.
An hour later we rolled into heaven. Until that day, I had not known a place called Hershey Park existed. It was like winning the golden ticket and stepping into Wonka’s factory. The street lights shaped like Hershey kisses. I imagined shimming up their poles and unwrapping the foil—but that’s about all I can recall. I don’t remember actually eating much chocolate that day, or even the amusement park rides I went on. All that remains with me is the wonderful spontaneity of the day—the liberty my parents took with reality. The message they sent that life doesn’t have to be just one way all the time.
I am excited, now, thinking of the possibility of creating my own “surprise day” ritual with Sophia. I don’t think I want her to pick the day, as Bard did. I want her to feel ambushed by me—the way I did by my parents the day we went to Hershey Park. I want her to realize, years later, that I secretly planned the day for her pleasure. That, though I make her eat her vegetables and take her naps and brush her teeth, I can also roll down the window, throw out all my rules, let the wind rush in and carry us away.