Aside from the holiday season, June is the busiest month of the year for most of us. And by us, I really mean the moms. We are the ones either planning an event, or preparing to attend someone else’s.
This year especially, the past month was jam packed with 2-3 functions each weekend. And as Memorial Day weekend came to a close, the whining and panic started to rise in my throat like acid when I realized what was in front of me. What will I serve at my daughter’s confirmation party? Who should I invite to my daughter’s graduation ceremony? Does my son want to eat out for his 25th birthday, and if yes, do we need reservations? Does my husband want an ice cream birthday cake? What kind of birthday gift is appropriate for a 75-year-old man? Do I wear that same beaded black dress to a family friend’s wedding? And exactly what do you bring to your cousin’s first published book party? The more questions I posed to my tired cranky, hangry self, the more irritated I became.
Couldn’t I just stop, rewind, and be back on my sofa next to the fireplace under a blanket with the remote in hand, stuck in the house in a snowstorm, like four months ago? I just wanted to be left alone.
Then, one day, I remembered something my “perfect” Italian grandmother used to always say, “Bella mia, embrace and enjoy every minute of the good times, ‘cause someday the bad times will come too, no questions posed, and no choices to make.” And so just like that, I stopped the incessant complaining, put on a genuine smile, and started to really look forward to everything, instead of dreading it. My new spin on the chaos.
So, naturally I have a few things to share to help us during these stressful times…
There are always two “sides” to the story in a celebration, the gift giver and the recipient. Been there, done that, literally hundreds of times over the years. I finally decided that it’s not just the “thought that counts,” it’s really the thought of the receiver of your gift that counts. The roots of my ideas for gifts start in my head, usually as I’m dozing off or boiling pasta for the umpteenth time on a Sunday, or when I’m driving. But I don’t necessarily imagine the gift itself, but rather what would make my friend or relative happy (or at least content). A gift that defines them, even in a very tiny way, so that total appreciation is guaranteed.
Food is always a big hit, or something difficult to find, or something expensive. Can’t afford three pounds of the perfect macaroon, just buy one and wrap up the pastry box with your friend’s favorite color. And don’t assume everyone is waiting with baited breath for a decent bottle of wine! Don’t let your go-to gift be an alcoholic beverage, or a boring plant, especially when congratulating someone on a big accomplishment or celebrating a special birthday. Originality is the name of the game. And the best is receiving something you wouldn’t get for yourself, but would love to have, or not a material gift at all.
I took my 2-year-old grandson, tantrums and all, while my daughter got a foot spa for her birthday and went out to dinner with her hubby. She’s an even better mommy after a little break. I didn’t impose a time limit, because then that nasty guilt feeling sets in, and your well intended gift is all for naught. And by the way, if a money gift is the only way to go, I always personalize with purchasing a little gift too, that the receiver would maybe add to his collection, use in their avid hobby, etc. There’s a gift to suit everyone, if you think long and hard enough. And if I really get stuck, I buy a universally liked food item, cookies or candy, sugar, sugar-free. It works!
And certainly, at some point, there will be a first time celebration you get an invited to and those are the most baffling to buy for, but probably the best party to attend. And whatever your conjured excuse is, DO NOT miss out on going! My cousin/author’s get together was so enjoyable. First thought, what do you bring? If anything? And all was fair game, because the point was we were all together as a family. It’s extremely rare to have aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, special lifetime friends together to witness the extreme pride of my Italian immigrant aunt and uncle. The tears of joy were abounding. Wish we could bottle that great feeling.
Honestly, how many times are you sitting on the fence about attending an affair, but you end up going, and have an amazing time no matter how you felt or had worrisome thoughts that were dragging you down? It’s all the same theme for these parties; most people need social interaction with others. It’s like a dose of vitamin D, you could probably benefit from more, but what you have, you think is just enough.
Another first time party scene this past year was my 13 year old daughter’s invite to Bat Mitzvahs, sometimes similar to a typical BIG everything Italian wedding. My daughter was so excited to get dressed up, go only with friends, and have a safe great time partying. At the same time, witnessing and appreciating other religious ceremonies and traditions.
Last, but not least, try to put aside the naturally feeling of redundancy, and boredom. This happens more often, of course, as we get older. How many bridal showers, baby showers, more recently gender reveal showers, weddings, christenings, first communions, confirmations, milestone birthdays, retirements, anniversaries, graduations have you attended?
But if you step back, the universal theme is that each of these functions depicts a beginning of another phase in life, usually filled with excitement, awe, pride, love, and hope. These are pretty much all the little threads that make up the tapestry of life. Enjoy, complain, and then eventually embrace it all. Remember, life is just a series of fleeting moments and none of us make it out alive! LOL.