My mother-in-law is a scientist but couldn't remember the Celsius-to-Fahrenheit conversion formula off the top of her head. Instead, she attempted to convert from Celsius to Kelvin to Fahrenheit, and the completed cake was a gooey mess in the middle. We still laugh about that failure of a cake twenty years later.
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When I spent my first Christmas away from my parents at my in-laws' home, my mother-in-law sent them a floral arrangement. The card read: "Thank you for sharing sympathy with us." It was supposed to have read, "Thank you for sharing Cynthia with us," but someone at the florist screwed up. If they hadn't, we wouldn't remember that gift. Now, we laugh about it every Christmas.
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Have you ever noticed that these are the things we remember and tell stories about? Not the perfectly planned parties and the calendar-worthy vacations. What sticks with us are the unexpected, the snafus, and the outright failures.
I was thinking about this at the beach early last week. The afternoon had turned sunny but windy. The kids were happily body surfing while I watched a storm cloud roll in. It began to sprinkle. Within a minute, it was a deluge. The kids stayed in the water as the rain poured down on them. The other beachgoers scuttled away, but I just stood there. Swimming in the rain is fun, and leaving once I'd been soaked to the skin wasn't going to make me any drier.
When we finally walked up to the house, we laughed about my soaked clothes. I gleefully stomped in puddles and splashed with the kids. It was an unexpected moment to remember, and I thought it might be the way we'd remember the vacation. A couple hours later, a nasty virus suggested otherwise.
It's still too soon. I can't laugh about the sickness and the ruined vacation. But someday I will. And my parents will laugh along with me, because that's what family does. We celebrate our shared experiences, especially when they don't go as planned.
Next time I'm fretting over the perfect vacation destination or the perfect holiday meal, I'm going to try to remember that no one will remember it if I succeed. Only if I fail will it be laughed about and remembered for a lifetime, because failures make better stories.
I know you have a story. What's one thing that went wrong that you still laugh about years later? Would you still remember if everything had gone exactly as planned?