“Let’s have a bathrobe party!” my youngest would exclaim when he was about eight. “What is a bathrobe party?” I’d asked. “It’s when we all put our bathrobes on and eat cake!” Of course it is. For several years, he has been announcing that we are having a party of one kind or another. Soccer parties, king and queen parties, cousin parties are announced, conceived complete with games, punch, usually cake and lots of friends. Needless to say, he is often crushed when we don’t instantly jump to his plan and he used to be surprised when the friends he’d ESP messaged don’t show up. We try to play along and a few of his less elaborate “any reason is a good reason” parties have to fruition.
This intuition to celebrate is not a mystery to me. I know exactly where he gets it. Growing up, my mother had the art of celebration down to a science. Anything was a reason to celebrate. A good grade, a cousin visiting, even a do-nothing Saturday night could be made special with banana splits for dinner, just because you can. With this kind of attitude toward the any day and every day, you can image the production made of birthdays. And holidays? We celebrated every one with great fervor and without fail. So, I smile at my little man’s adoption of my mother’s love of life and a good party.
Needless to say, she is a tough act to follow. I would like to say that it was because she didn’t work full time, but she did, and she was a single parent to a 10 and 4 year old after my dad passed away. Maybe it was because she poured everything into us after he passed. Maybe life in general was slower back then. Maybe it was because we had family nearby. Or maybe, it was simply because it was important. It filled her soul, and is a reflection of the free, loving, connected person that she is. Whatever the reason, I tried to adopt the joyful tradition of celebration that filled our childhood. But, mostly, I felt like I was scrambling to keep up.
Our first years of marriage, my husband stood back with a puzzled look on his face as I cut tiny shoe-prints out of green tissue paper and wrote riddles in tiny glittering script to leave a leprechaun treasure hunt trail for our 3 year old daughter. I enjoyed it as much as she did, and felt that little tingle of magic from my childhood. My husband warned that I was setting the bar pretty high right out of the gate. 18 years later, I think he might of been right, and most of our “magical” escapades are robotic midnight acts of obligation. How did she do it!? Well, I’m fortunate enough to have her around to ask.
“Well, when it came to holidays, I just loved the traditions. We didn’t have anything much materially when I was a kid, but we had lots of love and when everyone participated in the traditions of the holidays or gathered to celebrate a birthday, it was amplified. No matter what else happened, it was a safe and solid place that meant everything was and always would be okay. As far as our other celebrations? I just loved doing it. When I felt happy, I wanted to share it. When I was sad, it helped lift me and everything around us. A sunny day, someone coming to visit, an accomplishment just felt like they needed something special around them, to commemorate, to mark, to remember. What do you remember?”
I remember tea parties. I remember pancakes for dinner. I remember treasure boxes and treasure hunts. I remember picnics on sunny days, and beds made of pillows on the lawn on clear summer nights so we could watch the stars. But mostly, I remember love. I remember patience. I remember wondering how she always knew what I needed, just when I needed it. So, maybe I don’t always seize the moment, or even the day. And I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to sit through the number of mind numbing stuffed animal performances she endured, but I do know that my kids feel my love. Even if the tooth fairy “had a busy night and you’re on the waiting list for tomorrow.” They see me trying, and sometimes succeeding. They think that “kitchen-dancing” and “house of opera” is a normal thing to do when you’re happy, and they feel they are in a safe and solid place where everything will be okay. Eventually. That they are celebrated, and that the source of joy comes in many forms, but always comes from within.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
? Hanh Nhat Thich