Growing up I always knew there was something different about my family. My parents were perplexingly unconventional. They were so chill that I often found myself confused why they didn’t take my life more seriously. The other moms and dads I knew were running circles around their children, tending to every anticipated beck and call. I was fleetingly jealous, but it never got under my skin. Things in my home ran a bit differently than most. We had rules, chores, and bed-time, but structure was certainly not our holy grail. As a child, I was too naive to put my finger on what made us different. However, I have a developing theory that the spirit of my family is rooted in my mom and dad’s mastery of recreation.
Monica and Patrick have polarized beginnings. My dad grew up in Wall, South Dakota in a blue blood family that arrived on the Mayflower. On the contrary, my mother is a first-generation German immigrant, born and raised in Philadelphia. Frankly, alcohol consumption is about the only thing their families have in common. My mom and dad bonded over their love for music, faith, books, parties, and the great outdoors. They are both kind, intelligent, thoughtful people who never let a day go by without a good dose of jollies. My parents prioritize celebration above most things, and it has permeated the nature of our family.
My favorite bible verse is James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds.” If choosing joy was a sport, Monica and Patrick would be varsity captains. Despite the myriad of darkness and suffering they live through, my parents know how to access the unceasing joy and peace that comes from knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. My mom and dad raised me in a sanctuary where they taught me how to depend on the grace of God.
Every evening around 8 PM my dad gets home from work and the atmosphere in our home almost immediately shifts. Within minutes, the music goes on, his martini shaker comes out, and one by one my siblings and I get sucked in to his party. My precious mother is usually finishing preparing our dinner—marinated fish on most days. My mom and dad begin unwinding with each other by sharing fun stories and taxing challenges. These moments are the beginning of a beautiful dance that helps us exercise being present with one another and celebrating small things.
Celebration is a spectacular avenue for tension relief. After almost thirty years of marriage, my parents have it mastered. No matter what the day has held, they cherish creating an authentic space to share, laugh, eat, and be honest. Our evening soirées create an environment in which my siblings and I feel comfortable being transparent with our parents about our own suffering as well. Jean Vanier says, “Just as we are, in our brokenness, our pain, our land of success, we celebrate that we’re united together. And that is our comfort, our joy, and our gift.” My family’s miniature daily celebration does not mask our individual pain and anxiety. Rather, it’s a precious avenue for us to express our gratitude and love for one another. They may not have packed me fancy lunches or made it to every sports game, but my parents loved me in a very special way.
Every family is laced with dysfunction, mine included. I think I am still uncovering the beauty and brokenness of our celebrations and extrapolating how I want to carry that torch. Nevertheless, Monica and Patrick taught me to never take myself too seriously and that there is always a reason to eat, drink, and be merry.