It was a sunny summer day, and we were getting home from Vacation Bible School. I walked onto the slate porch, feeling the coolness of its shade, and into the sunny kitchen. There, on the table, my mother had left a Cookie Monster doll, with cookie crumbles all over his face, just to amuse me.
I was 23 years old.
I have mentioned before that my family wasn’t big into birthdays. It didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t really bother me now, as I can see with perspective how special so many moments of my life has been. I don’t need a birthday in order to be thrilled and happy – I am thrilled and happy most days of my life, one way or another.
That was on my mind today as I bounced around in my mardi gras beads, determined to squeeze the last drops of frivolity from Ordinary Time before the long fast begins. It’s a random Tuesday in March – who cares? Let us eat cake.
Life can be so much fun if you do it right. I’m sure I learned that from my mother, who demanded that we look at rainbows, stop at lemonade stands, and laugh at every possible opportunity. My brother and I joke about a sound that everyone in my family makes from time to time – a high pitched “Ooooh!” that indicates the spotting of a classic Chevy, or sweet zamboni, or beautiful clock – anything exciting, which is most things.
Rather than “if it’s not fun, why do it?”, I try to ask “if you have to do it, why not make it fun?” Even tomorrow, as we enter the solemn fast, we will laugh at our growling stomachs and wide-eyed snacklessness. It will be easier because we are doing it together.
My father loves the song “when the saints go marching in” and has extracted numerous promises that it will be played at his graveside. I think that when the saints go marching in there will be great rejoicing and laughter and, of course, singing.
When, God willing, we enter the heavenly banquet, it will be special. It will be as special as hovering over a cake with colleagues on Fat Tuesday, giggling over gluttony. It will be as special as the prayers we pray together for forty days in early spring. And my guess, my hope, and my prayer, is that it will be just as sacred as all of our indulgences and sacrifices because it is in the company of the many saints with whom I spend my days, and whom I love.