Yay, Let’s Have A Celebration…….But How??
By Bobye Anderson
June. Yes, it’s “busting out all over”, as the lyrics in Carousel say. And we residents of Cape Cod know that June is the sweet spot of the summer. Cape Codders wear winter clothes through April and resent those places with a real spring, like everywhere else. But our resentments are forgiven when June appears. Everything in this resort area lightens and opens – the buds, the weather, the shops, the warmth, and most importantly, our moods. If Cape Cod summers were viewed as a weekend, June would definitely be Friday night.
Some of the magic of the month comes from all its celebrations; it’s everyone’s favorite month to be festive and anticipatory. Named for the Roman goddess Juno, it is considered good luck to get married in June; wedding planners on Cape Cod have to find a venue at least a year out. Add to that those weddings’ anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, class and family reunions, vacations, the summer solstice, and every child’s favorite – the end of school: they all add up to make the month joyful. June celebrations culminate with National Take Your Dog to Work Day on the 26th – who knew?
But this year is different. We tentatively open the door to summer, pause, and keep the door ajar. We are in this pandemic. Our new normal is that we see the words “new normal” everywhere. All organizations, churches, and schools look to the future with Plan A (all remote services), Plan B (a hybrid), and Plan C (not sure yet). The mantra of “alone but together” and Zooming with family and friends make sense but the reality is that all of us are experiencing this time in our own way. As a person who thrives on keeping busy and making plans, I admit to feeling squirrelly at being asked to do neither.
So what was the essence of a celebration pre-pandemic? It was a moment in time; Webster calls it an act or event of commemoration with a social gathering or enjoyable activity. Composed of a reason and its accompanying event, it acknowledged an accomplishment, a life event, or a holiday; we got to choose the reason. It could be typical or atypical. My father would periodically choose a random day and declare it everybody’s “Unbirthday.” We would buy inexpensive gifts for all, bake a cake, and borrow the song from Alice in Wonderland
“A Very Merry Unbirthday To Us” to sing. The memory still charms me.
A pandemic celebration is the same but different; the reason remains but the event must be adapted. We have seen the creativity of 2020’s high school graduations. The variations ranged from signs on yards, prerecorded shared videos, delayed ceremonies, and decorated cars doing drive-bys. Local communities looked at their resources and brainstormed unique ways to celebrate - chairlifts up summits, drive-in theater events, and even racetrack driving to the finish line. The novelty alone may anchor the students’ moment in time.
A friend gave her graduating son a list of components of a celebration tweaked to follow pandemic guidelines. He then chose which options felt most essential to him and together the family planned how to check as many boxes as possible. That perspective seemed to honor the person, the event, and the guidelines and could be adapted to other types of celebrations. It wasn’t a totally satisfactory solution but honestly, when are they?
In May I attended a 96th birthday celebration for a friend at JML Care Center. A small group of family and friends stood outside with the balloons, signs, flowers, and cards; thankfully her room was on the ground level so we could look into the glass and see her sweet face. It was as wonderful as it could be. And the staff at JML deserves a huge shout-out; with busy jobs and a health crisis to manage, they found the time for helping and the phones for FaceTiming. A moment of grace.
No one can truly say what celebrations should be like this month and beyond. If it feels like we’re reinventing the wheel, it’s because we are. Never having had a chance to practice navigating through a celebration or anything else in a pandemic, why should we expect any level of clarity? Or wisdom. But perhaps Aretha had it right all long; we have to first start from a position of respect – respecting what is safe both for ourselves and for others, respecting people’s various comfort levels, and respecting what they bring from their own experiences.
Another guideline is kindness, always kindness. As we’ve heard, we’re all doing the best we can; as Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.” We need to stumble on, day by day, maybe even with a smile under our masks, hoping for the best but with a good reusable apology ready in our pockets. And maybe the guidelines of respect, kindness, and finding moments of grace are worthy of celebration on their own merit through this and beyond.
Bobye Anderson is a longtime volunteer and previous board member with Neighborhood Falmouth.
Silver Threads June 2020