I’ve come to the conclusion that celebrations are good. Now this may seem like a self-evident proposition, but I think it’s more complicated than that. The problem, as I see it, is that our celebratory radar needs to be recalculated. It’s easy enough to recognize the big events that need celebrating, but we might lead happier lives if we celebrated smaller achievements, like finding something that was lost or losing a couple of pounds. Well, maybe not the latter as that second slice of celebratory cake might well be counter-productive to the achievement itself.
I began thinking about this a few nights ago when we did, in fact, celebrate a major birthday. The celebrated one is a much loved friend who tends to hide her light under her own bushel basket, which may well be one of the many reasons she is so universally loved and admired. Whatever those reasons, eleven of us gathered to mark her birthday on a soft and pleasant spring evening. How the event came to be held in our backyard is a story in and of itself, based on truths involving a recent hip surgery and a certain home improvement project, but all that’s beside the point. What is note-worthy is that this party was a collaborative event, one that took the proverbial village in that everyone pitched in to provide all the necessary ingredients: plenty of good food and drink, as well as all the essential infrastructure of a garden party: tables and chairs, candles and flowers. OK; so there were no strolling violinists, but the happy buzz of conversations more than made up for any lack of strings.
I have no doubt that the festive atmosphere was enhanced by the fact that we—good friends all—were together again after too many months of living separately. We were outdoors and vaccinated, so there was nary a mask in sight, perhaps proof that the world is finally on the mend. We punctuated that point when the birthday cakes (note the plural) were presented to the guest of honor to the sound of bagpipes which had not been played lo these many pandemic months. Stirring—at least I thought so, but the neighbors might have had a different opinion. By the end of the evening, everyone was in a good mood, not rowdy, just happy to have shared in the marking of a friend’s milestone.
But back to where I began: celebrations are good; we just need to find more ways to incorporate them into our daily lives. Birthdays are, at best, annual events, like Thanksgiving or Christmas or the Fourth of July. Graduations are certainly worthy of celebration, but they only come at the end of a four-year slough. In pre-Covid times, our town regularly celebrated First Fridays on a monthly basis—better, in my opinion, but not good enough. We just need to take smaller steps.
I propose some manner of daily celebration. It need not require great fanfare or party favors or even alcohol. Maybe it’s just a happy memory, or a quiet moment of gratitude shared with a loved one. We take so much for granted that sometimes we fail to recognize all the good that resides within and around us, all the little accomplishments of our daily lives. If we can figure out how to celebrate all the small steps, then maybe, just maybe, one day we’ll figure out how to celebrate the long journey of life.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.
Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.