“Should we go ? We’ve got so much work to do on this farm .” “We got an invitation to the wedding, but I didn’t know I was expected at the bridal shower.” “Our daughter was always sorry her dad couldn’t leave the field for a day to attend her graduation.”
Celebrations abound in the summer. Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, family re-unions, campfires, baptisms and birthdays. The excuses for not attending may seem valid if the farm work is overwhelming, but 10 years from now will you regret not showing up ?
Dr. Nikki Gerrard’s 12 year study of farm families called “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” showed that rural folks who took time to celebrate and connect with community were far more resilient to the storms and bumps of life.
Strong families celebrate.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It’s the act of connecting with friends and family to share stories, laughter, and even struggles.
I don’t know about you, but we don’t nearly have the parties that we used to, and I miss that. When we celebrated our 25th anniversary on July 4th (yes , we got married on Independence Day !) we cleaned out the new shed, invited folks for a barbequed hamburger, watermelon and ice cream . The drinks were pop served on a silver platter by “Wittman” our white-gloved butler, an old high school friend in a very convincing costume. We wanted to celebrate our marriage and cherish our connections to friends. Steve Bell gave a concert on our flatbed trailer in the shed and our son’s rock band was the warm up act. It was a lot of fun . In years gone by 25th Anniversaries were formal events replete with corsages and silver trays, but today folks seem to slip off to a private holiday , and don’t want to draw attention to milestone events. We were honoured to a 75th anniversary which was an unforgettable experience, and a great encouragement to stay committed.
Family picnics are an inexpensive way to draw the clan together for volleyball, potluck goodies, and a campfire to cement family stories into the minds of the next generation. My Aunt Lois is the driver for our family picnics, the glue that keeps the cousins connecting. When you lose a parent, or both parents, are you going to be the one in your family that ensures you celebrate together?
Social graces have changed over the past three decades. Wedding showers used to be a community event for the entire town to show support for the new couple. RSVP still means “respondez s’il vous plait” , ie. please tell us if you are coming to the wedding, but unfortunately some folks haven’t learned this etiquette. Weddings and funerals are important rituals that have similar elements, just different timelines for planning.
There seems to be a trend towards avoiding the funeral service, and I think that is unfortunate. The “life celebration” is not for the deceased, it’s really about helping the grieving process for the friends and family left behind. The cost of the funeral can be decreased when the community contributes food and practical support. People remember the folks who took the time to “be present”. If you’ve been thinking something to give your adult kids who have everything, give them your funeral plans ( see my website article “Is Your Funeral Planned ?” at www.elainefroese.com )
Making time to celebrate the beginning of life at baby showers, the joining of life at weddings and the end of life at funerals is the rhythm of life we need to respect and engage.
I have a Facebook page, but I don’t spend hours every day on it. I feel silly learning more about my nieces and nephews on Facebook, than in real life since we don’t connect on a regular basis. A phone call on your cell or Skype with video is a better connection option than just words on the computer.
Not all family members want to connect . I receive calls prior to the major holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, “when the kids are supposed to be coming back to the farm.” Widows want to know when it is safe to talk about transition of the business. I suggest enjoying the celebration day as a family fun day, and leave the business talk for Monday morning. Book the flight out for Tuesday.
At some point in life we realize that “expectations can be a shortcut to discontent”. Are you expecting too much at your party ? If you can chat about your intent to have fun and just enjoy being together, things may be smoother. My brother was kind enough to bring along his girlfriend to our 25th, and she just happened to have a whack of catering experience. It was the start of a great friendship ! I didn’t have great expectations of perfection, the menu was kept simple, and everyone had a good time.
“I’d love to invite you over for supper Elaine, but my carpet and drapes don’t match.”
I am not kidding, I was the “district home economist” at the time. People can come up will all sorts of reasons why celebrating or connecting with you doesn’t work for them. Let those folks go their own way and find the herd that is happy to holler with you. We’ve adopted some young families with children who need “adopted” aunties and uncles. It’s been a delight to share campfires with them for birthday parties, and have them over for soup and buns.
So what is stopping your family from having more fun this summer?
1. “Work is never done.” Okay. Leave the workaholics behind and go on your own.
2. “We can’t afford to party.” Potluck works well for birthdays and camping suppers. You’ll save a lot with Judy’s Ice Tea. : Steep 4 Red Rose Tea bags in 120 oz of hot tap water. Remove the bags and stir in a can of frozen lemonade. Chill. Enjoy. A large restaurant pickle jar is 120 oz., just up to where the jar starts to curve in.
3.”I don’t know what to wear.” These days casual seems to work for everything. I was taught to be dressed-up, and I have a game of re-arranging my closet to find something “new to me.” Someone once said, you are not totally dressed until you are wearing a smile. I am sure that people who are your genuine friends really just want you to show up, and they won’t be judging your attire.
4. “I can’t plan ahead that far.” Right. Being intentional about what you need for fun in your life is your choice. Have a flexible plan. Sometimes a phone call will be plan B, but other times you won’t regret making the actual effort to be there in person. Folks say that your “actions speak louder than words.” They feel appreciated when you chose to celebrate with them. Remember , we rural folks need all the resilience we can get.