BG 180 – Have a nice day!

As they checked the last messages on his phone, before erasing them and setting the device aside to later give it to a niece or nephew who didn’t have one yet – after all, grandfather had been buried and no longer needed it himself, and they were engaged in the emotionally demanding task of sifting through some sixty years of collected items in his cluttered little retirement home and deciding what to divide among themselves, what to take to the thrift store, and what to the container park – they saw that the last message he had received while alive was from his granddaughter Maddie. It read ‘Have a nice day, grandpa!’ They were touched. Maddie was only six years old, had just learned to read and write, and had only had her first phone for a month.

Three weeks later, at the end of a fun day at school, Maddie said goodbye to her classmates before going home. She had first taken her friend Joris aside and solemnly wished him ‘Have a nice day, Joris!’, to which Joris had said with a smile ‘Thank you!’; after all, the day had already largely passed and she had looked so unusually serious. He watched her as she hopped away.
The next day Joris did not come to school. And the day after that, after the day opening in their own class, all the students were led to the main hall, where the head of the school sadly informed them that Joris had been hit by a truck yesterday morning on his way from home to school – the driver had had to avoid an obstacle on the road and had not been able to brake in time – and that he had died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Maddie’s parents were shocked when they read the letter from school explaining it at the end of the day. All students of the school, parents and teachers attended the funeral. Maddie endured it all unmoved and without tears. She did say it was a pity that she would never see her friend Joris again. For her age, she showed a remarkable understanding of how final this farewell was.

Two weeks later, Maddie’s mother had to spend the night away from home for work. Together with her father, Maddie took her mother to the station to see her off. When her father suggested that she wish mum a nice day, she looked at him in shock. ‘Come on honey, in a minute mommy won’t be able to hear you!’ Her face brightened and, waving, she called out to her mama: ‘Have fun, mama!’ ‘Thank you, sweetheart! You listen to daddy! See you tomorrow!’ mum called back with a laugh, to which Maddie nodded happily.

No one but Maddie herself noticed that all the lovely pets in the neighborhood whom she kindly wished a nice day, always disappeared for good the next day, or were found dead.

When an elderly neighbor who often gardened in her front yard passed away a few weeks later, no one else had heard Maddie politely wish her a nice day on her way to school the morning before.
By now Maddie herself knew very well what happened in the days after she uttered those specific words. But she had no choice: if they had to be said, they had to be said. She couldn’t stop that. She accepted the consequences with age-appropriate carelessness.

Until one morning when, with her little backpack on her back, containing her lunch box, a carton of juice and an apple, she was ready to walk to school, but had to turn around again and walk back into the kitchen, where her mother was working on her laptop at the kitchen table and her father was reading the newspaper with a cup of coffee next to it. She looked at them both seriously in turn and wished them ‘Have a nice day, mom…’ and ‘Have a nice day, dad…’ in a sad tone. Then she trudged to school with a deep sigh, her shoulders drooping.