Monday, June 25, 2012

Putting the soul (and the silly) in summer solstice



Some people may tell you the best parties are all about the guest list, or the food, or the open bar. But I'm here to tell you they are all about the silly.

This past weekend, my roommates and I hosted our fifth annual Summer Solstice Party. This event goes beyond burgers and beers; it's about celebrating sunshine, relaxing without guilt, and reveling in a summer holiday that's not part of the Memorial Day/July 4th/Labor Day triumvirate.

Summer Solstice Party has a humble and juvenile origin. When I was growing up in PA, my absolute favorite season was summer. It signaled the arrival of my birthday (July 22, cough::hint::cough), pool visits, and endless reading. Naturally, I wanted to mark this occasion as soon as possible, and the solstice accommodated my desire nicely since we were out of school at that point and ready to blow off steam.

Each year on the day of solstice, I'd tell all the neighborhood kids to meet me and my brother in the backyard after dinner. We'd show up in our grubby outdoor clothes and bare feet. We'd bring balls and ropes and flashlights.

And then we'd play -- manic, magic, unbridled play. The kind of play that takes you across six backyards. The kind of play that helps you wear out the fireflies. The kind of play that makes you run in your dreams that night.

A decade and a half later, in a new city with a new adult life that didn't give me summers off or a yard to play in, I found myself wistful for my summer ritual. I told my roommates about it, and we decided to resurrect the concept, this time with an adult twist (read: alcohol). The idea was an instant hit, and the event has only gotten bigger each year.

This year, though ... this year put a glow in my heart that brought me right back to those golden backyard days. It could have been the fact that my brother was with me, or that we had 70 of our closest friends show up, or that I drank a fair amount. All fair reasons.

But I think the real difference was our level of silly. We had a palm tree-shaped cooler that made me giggle every time I looked at it:

Tee-hee!

Our corn muffins featured cupcake wrappers with either birthday confetti or animal prints on them:

"Corny" funfetti.

We offered up water guns, used to soaking effect -- outdoors AND indoors -- throughout the evening:

Water guns + branded koozies. We know how to roll.


Our guests brought the silly too. They set off sparklers and firecrackers before it was dark. They proudly wore the glow sticks we passed around as bracelets, necklaces, and headbands. They conducted a Cornhole tournament past sunset, rearranged the pink flamingos in our landscaping, and played several rounds of improv in the alley.

Silly, we all remembered, feels really damn good.

Let me anticipate your question here and say, yes, a heavy layer of alcohol coated the eight-hour fiesta. But I guarantee you that our amazing guests -- friendly, funny folks from all our walks of life -- would have behaved this way anyway.

Because silly releases us. Silly relieves us. Silly reminds us that our youngest selves -- ones we thought we'd shooed away when bills in our name started arriving -- are still in there, waiting to kick off their shoes and squeal around the neighborhood.

I love me some silly, and I love the season, the reason, and the people who help me bring it. May I never be too old, too jaded, or too un-summery for any of them.

Prayer #215: Soulstice (Take 2)

Put grass beneath my bare soles and send me flying back to the moment I watched the long-suspended sun knit itself at last to the hazy horizon and drop new stars to earth as blinking bulbs.

In that time I was beyond wonder. I simply saw. Believed. No -- knew. Return me, heady and heated, to that deep purple dusk, where I can seek for You, hiding in the shadows, stifling a giggle.

Amen.

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