Jonah Days. We all have them: those days when everything goes wrong. L.M. Montgomery, eloquently described a Jonah Day in the second book of her Anne of Green Gable series, when the plucky red-headed heroine reaches the end of her tether on just such a day and – in a complete reversal of every tenet she has ever expressed and holds dear – spanks one of her students. The scene itself and the passages that follow are delightfully written, completely evocative of the frustration and chagrin that all of us have experienced on our own Jonah Days.
On the night before Thanksgiving two years ago, I recalled that book and laughed ruefully. I’d just had my own Jonah day, and if I’d had a student to spank, I’d have been reaching for a paddle. If a day itself could have been whacked, I’d have done it. I’d reached the end of my tether and a bit beyond.
The morning had begun gloriously. It was very warm for November, and the day was sunny. Newly retired, I knew had plenty of time for the cooking I would be doing for our family Thanksgiving. So that morning I’d prepared the pastry shells for four pumpkin pies and, as I usually do, carried the huge bowl of filling over to where the shells waited, coddled in their pie pans, on the oven racks. This was the way I’d always filled the pie shells — carefully dipping out the filling into each shell with a ladle.
I dropped the whole bowl of filling. Four pies worth of filling. Onto the oven door.
Later that day, the bread I was baking rose over the pan, spilling onto the oven floor and beginning to burn. The house quickly filled with smoke, triggering four smoke alarms. Those alarms are, of course, set too high on the walls to be reached without a stepstool. I ran to grab my stepstool…but a friend had borrowed it. Frantic in the midst of shrieking klaxons, I found myself hauling a heavy wooden kitchen chair up the stairwell to turn off the upstairs alarms.
The chaos of the morning and afternoon seeming to have subsided, I decided that giving myself a manicure would relax me. The bottle of nail polish tipped onto my white leather hassock, but I congratulated myself that I’d covered the leather with wax paper before starting the manicure. Once finished, I carefully tidied up my basket of manicure supplies, putting them back into perfect order, and admiring how well organized the basket now was Then I carried the basket upstairs to put it away. And at the very top of the stairwell, I dropped it. Bottles of polish, emery boards, pumice stones, scissors, cuticle oil, clippers, cotton balls and swabs, bottles of remover…all went tumbling down the stairwell, bouncing and scattering, the bottle of remover opening and splashing acetone all over the carpet.
I sighed, cleaned up the mess, and unceremoniously dumped everything any which way back into the basket.
The stairwell was apparently my greatest nemesis that day, however, because a short while later, as I started down the steps, I tripped. I fell and slid all the way to the landing, twisting my ankle and wrenching my back.
I cried, clapped an ice pack on my throbbing ankle, and finally hobbled upstairs for a soothing hot shower.
While I was in the shower, my phone rang. I decided to let the answering machine take it and finish my shower. I didn’t listen to the message until I’d gotten into my pajamas.
My Dad had called. His friend was taking him to the hospital. He thought he might be having a stroke.
I threw my clothes back on, called other family members, and raced through the night to the hospital.
Dad had not, after all, had a stroke; he’d suffered an anxiety attack and his blood pressure had spiraled out of control. He was going to be just fine. That was a great comfort as we all wearily wended our way home shortly before midnight.
The holiday was not, as I recall, the most scintillating of Thanksgiving days, given that we were all exhausted and drained. But I knew I had much to be grateful for, not the least of which was that Dad was okay.
And that my personal Jonah Day was finally, finally over.