An Ordinary Day Gives Birth to an Extraordinary Story By Elana K. Arnold
Five years ago, two things happened. My father died; my friend gave birth.
My father died first. He had been suffering with two illnesses, and he went into the hospital for a surgery we hoped would ease his pain. He did not come out.
His death was very hard for me, and that manifested in deep anxiety. I woke each morning feeling a sick pit of dread deep in my stomach. My husband, who is solution oriented, designed a four-mile walk, mostly on trails, up and down hills and around the edge of a small lake. He took me on the walk each day; it was vigorous, the kind of walk you can’t talk through. It helped.
When he traveled out of town for work, he reminded me to take the walk on my own. One early morning, shortly after my friend Jessica had given birth—a home birth, in a tub—I looked through the photos she’d shared, photos our friend Melissa had taken. Then I set off, alone, on my walk.
I thought of my dad that morning, as I always did, and I thought of Jessica, too, and her daughter. I thought about how incredible it is that we are surrounded by so much beauty, all the time, and so much sadness, too.
I saw a bird—a crow—perching atop a fencepost. She lifted off, and flew away.
Life felt so very beautiful, and so very precious. I was alone, and I pulled out my phone, and I began to record myself telling a story. “It was an ordinary day in the neighborhood,” I said out loud. I walked, I watched the sky, I paid attention to all the things around me—the grasses and the sky, the birds and the path—and all the things inside me—the grief and the wonder, and the gratitude, most of all.
Did I tell the story? Did the story get told to me? It felt more like the latter.
An Ordinary Day is the story of two families, next-door neighbors. One is preparing to say hello to a baby about to be born, and the other is preparing to say goodbye to their beloved Golden Retriever, Sally.
Each of them—the baby and the dog—is surrounded by family and love.
I love this book with all my heart. Elizabet Vukovic’s beautiful art reinforces the story’s gentle tone. Each time I read it, I feel that gratitude again.
I dedicated An Ordinary Day to two people:
I hope An Ordinary Day will be as meaningful for you and the children in your life as it is for me. Here is Violet, surrounded by family and love.
[Note: Jessica Becker is a doula and yoga instructor; Melissa Hockenberger is a photographer. They both live and work in Southern California.]
Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.