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Monday, March 17, 2014

Life Is A Special Occasion

It's been quite a thoughtful day for me today. St. Patrick's Day always makes me think of Gram. For those of you who may not know, Gram was not my natural grandmother. She was the mother-in-law of my mother's cousin. After he found out that Liz and I were in an orphanage in Chicago, he insisted on sending for us. His wife didn't want us, and eventually (pretty soon for Liz, actually) we were both sent to live with her mother. Gram's father was Irish, the child of parents who emigrated from Ireland. Her mother was of English and Scottish descent, but that never stopped Gram from claiming that her own heritage was one hundred percent pure Irish. I remember once, as an adult, having put two and two together and asking her if her mother was English/Scottish, didn't that make her only one-half Irish? She glared at me as if I had just let loose a stream of the foulest profanity, and said that it didn't make a difference, she was completely Irish. I didn't bring it up after that, I knew better!

So it only makes sense that my thoughts would turn to her on the day commemorating the saint that is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, as well as driving the snakes out of that country. My thoughts covered all sorts of subjects, and finally progressed to something that I think is common to many families, regardless of national heritage. It's about saving things for mythical special occasions. Gram had lots of things that she "saved for special." I know that she had jewelry in her drawers that remained unworn, ditto for clothes. I'm pretty sure that she had lovely nightgowns, robes, and slippers that were never worn. It always bothered me a bit. She would say that she was saving them for a special occasion, but what was she saving them for?

I know that I am not the first to ponder this subject, or to do so publicly. But I think we need to take a look at how we view ourselves and the way we do or don't use special things. If someone gives us something special, aren't they doing it because they feel that we deserve it? Or maybe they know that it is something we would appreciate but can't get for ourselves. Either way, we end up with some sort of indulgence that goes unused. It is special. So we wrap it in tissue paper and tuck it into a drawer or a corner of the closet or maybe a cedar chest. And we say that we are saving it for a special occasion. 

We go out to dinner with family or friends, or take a small trip, or reunite with old friends, and the item still stays unused. And this makes me wonder what we are saving it for. Of course, Gram would disgustedly tell me that people who don't set things aside will end up never having anything special. But when will we ever find a time special enough? Are we saving all of our lovely things to wear in a hospital or nursing home? Or a coffin? I wonder how many people's stashed-away special treasures have simply been discarded. 

I fully understand having some special items that may be too delicate or fancy for everyday use. And I understand wanting to have something that we can wear or accessorize with when something wonderful comes up. I have begun to think that we put things away because we don't think that we, or our lives, are special enough for us to use or wear them. This makes me very sad. We are all special. Life is a gift, and we should, and deserve to, enjoy it.  I have a beautiful pashmina, for example, that I bought in Budapest. Yes, it has a special place in a specific drawer. But I have worn it in all sorts of weather and for all types of occasions. It has been around my neck or over my head during snowy or rainy weather. It has traveled a little bit. It has gone to the supermarket and on walks to the mailbox, and appeared at wedding receptions. It reminds me of the time when it was purchased, and Istv├ín, the person who sold it to me. It makes me think of my Hungarian family. And it's darn beautiful, to boot!

I'm not trying to say that I would begrudge someone else having it when I am gone. I won't need it any more. But I also don't think it belongs in a drawer for the rest of my life, waiting for a time that I decide that I am special enough to wear it. So take that beautiful nightie out of the closet, and put it on. Slip on those lovely soft slippers and robe. And sit down to read a book or watch tv. Enjoy it. Remember who gave it to you, or why you bought it. Today is a special occasion. It's Monday. Maybe tomorrow you can eat dinner off your special china, or sip juice from a wine or champagne glass. Use that expensive perfume, or the wonderful soap you received for Christmas. Why not? You are one of a kind, and your life is a special occasion. Why not celebrate it?