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22 Nov

Seize The Cake

(This post is underwritten by the American Cancer Society, official sponsor of birthdays.)

Emilia likes birthday parties. Actually, like is an understatement. Emilia loves birthday parties, with the fiery heat of a thousand wax birthday candles and a few hundred sparklers.

But here’s the thing about Emilia’s love of birthday parties: she’s not particularly fussy about whether those parties are in celebration of her birthday, or, in fact, whether they’re in celebration of any birthday at all. She’s really pretty emphatic that a ‘birthday’ – that is, a day marking someone’s birth – is by no means a necessary condition for a celebration involving cake and balloons and such. After all, if one limited such celebrations to birthdays, one would only have a handful of reasons to throw such a celebration in any given year. So why not declare every occasion a birthday-party-worthy occasion? Can you think of even one reason why you should not?

Emilia can’t, and so Emilia celebrates everything. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. Because she’s right that we should be celebrating everything, and that when there isn’t anything obvious to celebrate, we should be looking for those things and declaring them celebration-worthy and then lighting candles and eating cake. So it is that we have thrown parties to celebrate potty-training accomplishments, dance recitals, haircuts, rainy days and Saturdays. We celebrate every visit to Grandma’s house with a cake and balloons. We do the same whenever Grandma visits our house. We do the same whenever pretty much anybody visits our house. Because, why not celebrate these things? Who knows how long we’ll have them to celebrate? We’ve faced too many losses; we’re facing too many losses. We lost my dad. My mom had a skin malignancy, and then an aneurysm, and then failed aneurysm surgery. My stepfather battled prostate cancer. Tanner fights his own fight. Every day could bring a loss, or bring us closer to a loss.

But that’s true for everybody. You don’t have to have terminal illnesses and cancer diagnoses embedded within your family narrative in order to face loss. Everybody faces loss, because – here’s the aphorism – life is short. Too short. Too short to not celebrate. Too short to not celebrate every day.

When my father died, we threw a party with a birthday cake and balloons and cucumber sandwiches and salads and chips and pie. We had the party down by the lake that he so loved, and the kids chased balloons on the beach, and it was very much like a birthday party, because that’s what felt right. We couldn’t let that day, the day of his memorial, be one marked by sadness, because we wanted our children to understand that his life – that life in general – was something worth celebrating. So we celebrated.

Emilia refers to it often, The Day That We Threw Party Because Grandpa Went To Heaven, because for her, it stands as confirmation of her belief that every day deserves a party. Not, as it happens, because we threw a birthday-style party on a day that wasn’t a birthday, but because we threw that party too late. As she puts it, ‘it would have been a better party if we had it before Grandpa left.’ She’s right. That is the very best reason to have a party now – because the best party is the party that you throw while everybody’s here. And if that means throwing a party every day, so be it.

So. Go on. Throw that party. Not because life is short – although it is that – but because life is awesome, every part of it, and deserves to be celebrated.


(Remember how I said above that this post was underwritten by the American Cancer Society, official sponsor of birthdays? We might also say that they’re the official sponsor of more everyday parties, every day. In Emilia’s world, anyway.)