Psalms 118:24 – This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
CELEBRATION is a word that I view with ambivalence. I’ve spent a lifetime working through my issues around celebration. Ours was a nuclear family, a term that became common around 1947. A mother, a father and their children. My step dad was a career postal worker and my mother was a hair stylist, or “beautician” as they were called in those days. Materially my sister and I had everything we needed as children. Both our parents had Triple A credit scores.
We had loose family ties. Basically, we were civil but not close with my step dad’s family. I perceived them as emotionally reserved, and I felt more awkward than happy around them. Our mother’s family lived deep-south and once she migrated north the bonds to our southern roots were largely severed. We spent our summers in Chicago rather than traveling down south to visit our relatives. Occasionally my mom would invite friends over to play cards but looking back my parents were introverts. We observed and exchanged gifts for holidays and birthdays, but we didn’t have celebrations.
As a single parent, I unintentionally passed my failure to slow down, acknowledge and celebrate life’s important milestones. I’d set a goal, reach it and unceremoniously move onto the next one. When I first noticed my shortcoming and began inviting guests to my home for gatherings, I initially created more stress than fun. It just seemed that celebrations had to be perfect.
When my son Muasa, the first of my children to graduate from college, declined to march at his graduation I was devastated, but upon reflection I realized I had inadvertently set the stage for his casual attitude about earning his degree through behavior I had demonstrated.
I actually earned my Bachelors’ Degree from DePaul University the same year that Muasa graduated from high school. It had been tough attending college at night while working full time to support my children, but I graduated with a B+ average. I definitely marched in the commencement ceremony but there was no party afterward. My crowning achievement went uncelebrated. Several years later, this same son, married the mother of his children by simply taking her to the courthouse and having a quiet ceremony.
It’s a fact that our children largely reflect back to us what they see, and my youngest son, had reflected back a trait of mine that devalued rather than exalted, emotional and academic accomplishments.
Two years ago, when Hope, my youngest daughter got engaged, she wanted what no one in our family had ever had, a formal wedding! Her wedding was her dream and the planning of her wedding became my charge. Planning my daughter’s wedding was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life and created a warm bond between myself and Hope’s mother in law. The joining together of our incredible families in September 2016 anchored in my heart the significance of loudly giving thanks and praise for the good things life brings. While I had celebrated Hope’s marriage to her beloved, it wasn’t until very recently that I celebrated an accomplishment of my own.
My newest book, The Iron Collar, was written through an arduous time in my life. Once it was published I immediately decided to throw myself an impressive book launch party! That day as I stood onstage speaking through a microphone, I looked into the faces of associates, friends and family that had played a pivotal part in my life and my literary journey. Joy filled me as I was finally able to publicly admit my struggle with celebrating my personal accomplishments and to claim my personal victory. It was a full circle moment. You dream, you work hard, you accomplish, and you celebrate! That’s how it’s supposed to go.
GROWTH requires reflection and change. My growth in this area has been incremental, often facilitated by insights into how I reared my children. Over the years I have intentionally become more focused on the celebration of my family’s accomplishments. We have as many informal gatherings as our schedules allow and we keep a running text message to check in on our day- to- day activities. It brings us closer, helps us share our goals and most importantly, to celebrate one another regularly. I’ll never be the party queen but I’m a lot closer to where I would like to be.
.– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.