Celebrate the milestone, not the date

Published 6:17 am Saturday, September 29, 2018


Coffee with Mimi

It is getting close to the holidays. I have recounted before the numerous events in my family which occur between Dec. 7 and Jan. 20. I have a relatively small immediate family: one husband, three children, two in-laws, one grandchild. Between the two bookend dates we will observe two wedding anniversaries, six birthdays and the usual assortment of holiday gatherings. Over just 44 days, that is a lot of planning and schedule coordination. 

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Some families successfully combine events, sharing birthdays or making a monthly party for all things which need to be celebrated. I can understand the approach. For example, on the first Saturday of each month we will gather for all birthdays, anniversaries and any other significant event occurring during the given month. That’s nice if those whose big day is that month can attend. Otherwise, it is really just a party for so and so.

We have tried the approach several years for the extended family in February. A date was chosen, a location was agreed upon and the word went out for a nice lunch. Last year one of the honorees was, much to everyone’s pride, competing in a sporting event out of town. Not too far away, though, to preclude the reasonable rearrangement of the location. 

This particular event was one in which individual combatants advanced through the competition brackets if victorious in each round. There was a generous provision that one loss was not cause for packing up and heading home, and to lunch. Athletes earned a second chance in the “loser’s bracket.”  An awful designation if you think about it. There should be a grassroots legislative movement to rename this tier the “second chance bracket.” It is not inconceivable that the survivor of the “loser’s” bracket pressure cooker can win the whole thing and then really have something to crow about, besides the really big trophy.

As the athletic contest on this celebration day proceeded through the brackets, the family members who were in attendance were to “message” everyone else as to the progress of our athlete.  While cheering for successful outcomes at each level, we noted the passage of time in the window of lunch.  Lunch approached early dinner. Travel time had to be factored in, as well. Transportation arrangements became complicated. Impending darkness and unfavorable weather were mentioned in several exchanges. Folks were getting hungry and evening plans were gnawing around the edges. Family member celebrants were beginning to drop like flies.

Those in attendance enjoyed concession-stand cuisine and the rest of made do. 

Come to think of it, the last month we attempted the “celebrate for all” tactic was February. No one got cake. It hasn’t been discussed since.

I prefer a method which is less structured, but recognizes the individual. This, too, is not perfect. Some people are just too darn busy to be worked in on THE day. So, if you are flexible, we will catch you at some point and celebrate. If you are willing to share, we can. Those who can come celebrate with you are welcome.

My point is the celebration is the thing, not the date. This personal philosophy has become a bit controversial in my very immediate family. Most notably, my husband is a bit more particular about who, what, when and where. Specifically, the when. For example, my birthday and our anniversary are the same date. It truly matters not to me if we go to dinner on the exact day. If we don’t, I will still be a year older and we will still be married for some number of years. If the date falls on a Monday, he has a meeting almost every year, the kids don’t live with us anymore and it is a work night, so what is the big deal? Find a less busy evening and enjoy. Good restaurants are open lots of days.   

Truthfully, this is how I selfishly stretch out the fun. On my actual birthday, people wish me a happy day. Facebook reminds them to do so. My mom always remembers to send a card which arrives exactly on schedule. My children usually send a card or call on the date, but if they don’t or it doesn’t arrive on time, I’m perfectly OK with that. I get a greeting on another day, just continuing the fun.

If we decide to have a special dinner, maybe drive to Louisville, and due to conflicting events, it has to be on the weekend, even better. I can make a single birthday stretch into a good week with not too much effort and a clear conscience even at my age.

As a teacher, I always got a kick out of kids comparing birthdays. If a student had a birthday close to mine, they loved to let me know. It was as if we had a special connection. Birthday plans with various family members and friends were shared happily. As it turns out kids like to stretch out celebrations, too.  Why let a single day limit the possibilities? Enjoy life like a kid as much and as often as possible.