By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
I am a hopeless optimist. Every single day I hold out hope for the perfect day; but for reasons I can’t quite explain, the reality rarely meets my dreams.
Dreaming of perfect days is easy in Florida. As the weekend approaches, I envision my wife and myself walking on a beach, enjoying the thick salt air coming off the Gulf, then having lunch at a funky beach restaurant before watching the sun set over the water.
But when the weekend arrives, the drive over to the beach suddenly seems like a long one and it is hard to get moving; and then before I know it, half the day is shot and it’s too late to go. Or so I tell myself, anyway. In other words, I may sometimes simply be too lazy for perfect days. But still, I’ve been blessed in life to have had a few of them — by my standards, at least.
For me, a perfect day doesn’t even have to be perfect in the sense of it being all puppies and rainbows. Instead, a perfect day could be one that remains with me as a day that months or years later I remember and can feel how I felt then.
There is an old saying that the best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. If that is true, then I am the exception that proves the rule. My perfect days almost all involve my boat and none of them involve buying and definitely not selling.
Years ago, Michelle and I set sail from our marina in Ruskin to spend a week of vacation exploring the Gulf coast. I distinctly remember a day at anchor off Useppa Island, a short distance from Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa State Park — all places accessible only by boat. It was beautiful beyond my ability to adequately describe. I spent a day in the cockpit of our sailboat reading books from Florida author Randy Wayne White. The book’s protagonist, Doc Ford, was a seemingly everyday man with a shadowy past and a never-ending capacity for rescuing attractive women and ultimately saving the day. White’s books are all set in Southwest Florida. As I read in my cockpit the characters from the book were zooming around in the dark of night in the exact same location — visiting Cabbage Key, sneaking into the exclusive resort on Useppa, and generally causing mayhem. Later that evening, we hopped into our dinghy to meet friends for dinner at the restaurant on Cabbage Key. The dockmaster on the island was a character in the books I had read. It was a perfect ending to a storybook day. As I type these words, I can still feel what I felt then. It was and is wonderful.
A few years later, we were anchored off of a beach in the large harbor near George Town in the Bahamas. In the morning, I dove into the crystal clear water to check out the hull of our boat, Michelle baked some fresh bread, and our mission for the entire day was to visit a hardware store in town. The store was a few miles from where we tied up our dinghy but we didn’t have to walk far — within just a few steps down the road, a local stopped to offer us a ride. That night, we watched another perfect day in paradise fade to black with hundreds of anchor lights from the boats surrounding us mingling with the stars in the heavens. It felt as though we could reach out to touch them.
In another instance, what certainly didn’t feel like a perfect day at the moment, has been polished and smoothed over by time to form a perfect memory.
I was at anchor last year at Block Island, Rhode Island; it was a foggy and cool day. Michelle was packing to return to the real world. We went into town together, and I remained on the dock as the ferry taking her back to the mainland, and her flight home, disappeared into the fog. I walked back to the anchorage alone.
The next day I felt myself drowning in loneliness, taking an almost perverse pleasure in thinking about the little things I had taken for granted only days before: walking down the streets of the small town holding hands, sharing a laugh over the trivial and the inane, and casual talk of common dreams. But it was a beautiful day and I decided to stop drowning long enough to visit the town.
There was something about the blue sky and the air on that little island in the Atlantic Ocean that day. It is a beautiful place and I was taken with the urge to walk into the office of the little weekly newspaper to beg for a chance at a job. In the end, however, I walked back to the anchorage dock alone, flooded in memories that were all too fresh, memories of the fun I had with Michelle only a few days before.
For me, however, that has become a perfect day. I can still feel how I felt then and I still remember the things I thought about. That day I realized just how much I love my wife. I also understood how fortunate I was to have been there. Life was good then. That day reminds me that life is good now.
What is your perfect day? Has the passing of time formed perfect days for you? I want to hear from you; I want to hear your story. Share a perfect day or two with me by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.