When I was a kid, I loved the family gatherings. I think because, as the eldest of all my cousins, there were always other “kids” to play with or, later on, other “teenagers” to complain to. I attribute the success of our family gatherings to both my grandmothers. They had very different personalities and dealt with the families in decidedly different ways, but they always had the same motive: to make the family gathering the best that it could be. They did this, mainly, through food.
My grandmothers were excellent cooks, and they would whip out Italian delicacies with ease. I know how difficult it can be because I, myself, have tried to replicate some of these recipes with absolutely no success. I do make decent gnocchi, though (thanks to Aunt Helen’s tutelage after my grandmother had passed away), and I know my cousin Julie is extremely happy that she finally got our Nana’s cheesecake recipe perfect. That’s who they were, my grandmothers, they were in love with the family and worked hard to make every moment we spent together special.
That being said, they were very good at inventing reasons to celebrate. If we got together for a birthday or an anniversary, there would always be 20 other things that we would “celebrate” so we had things to sing about for each person (always to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” with the new occasion replacing “birthday” in the song). I have celebrated first days of school, high exam scores, birthdays (before and after the fact), graduations (before and after the fact), sports victories, ends of illnesses, etc. My father and I used to go into our rendition of “Happy Hole in the Sock Day” every time a new candle was lit and some other occasion was pulled out of thin air to celebrate. It got to be rather silly after a while.
I know the meaning behind the celebration of all the non-occasions was to make everyone feel special during our celebrations, but that defeats the purpose of the celebration. If it’s someone’s birthday, it’s their day to feel special. We don’t have to accommodate everyone else so they don’t feel left out. They SHOULD feel left out. They will be special when it’s their birthday, or graduation, or retirement. These are the big reasons to celebrate. There doesn’t need to be a cake that looks like Swiss cheese after a hundred or so candles have been added, lit, removed, added and lit again for 10 different occasions. I shouldn’t go away from a celebration hoarse from singing 10 different versions of the same song.
I know I’m using my family as an example in this post, but we’re not alone. Many of my friends have made similar comments about their family gatherings growing up. Some have even gone on to say that they distinctly felt un-special even when it was their birthday being celebrated because so many other things were celebrated at the same time. These people are members of large families, like myself. They know what it’s like to have 15 cousins all vying for grandma’s attention. Maybe people from smaller families won’t understand this post, but the posts are about things that annoy me, and I understand it.
There are certain occasions that warrant celebration. Birthdays, graduations, retirements, weddings, anniversaries, new babies, divorces (sometimes – haha) are the big ones. I was recently asked by a colleague what we were going to do to celebrate our 2 month anniversary of coming to Singapore. Really?!?! We’re celebrating that now? Monthly?!?
Dad, if you’re reading this….let’s start singing….”Happy hole in the sock day to you……..”