The calendar is too cluttered with special occasions. If you cast a wide enough net, we’re always close to a holiday or something else noteworthy. I have 19 first cousins, and they all have birthdays. If you went to elementary school in the late 90s or early 2000s, then you know that Earth Day (April 22) is the special 24 hours each year when you selflessly recycle and maybe even clean up your neighborhood. If you go to college in Santa Barbara, then you know that your Earth Day clean-up will involve a lot of old rolling papers from 4/20. If you have foreign friends on Facebook, then I’m sure you, like me, were coerced into recognizing Bastille Day, Orthodox Christmas and the month of Tet. This week included April Fools’ Day, a very special time of year in which we celebrate practical jokes.
Of course, I.V. needs no excuse to celebrate, and I think that’s one of our town’s virtues. Yet with so much meaning imposed on so many dates, I tend to wonder when the whole thing will fall through. Some of our worthiest honorees have already been all-but-forgotten. How many of us give a second thought to the “labor that built our nation” when Labor Day comes around? My father’s parents were well-educated immigrants from Europe but my mother’s side is mysteriously Irish, and I’m sure I have ancestors who broke fingers building railroads or suffered some other ordeal that I freely disregard on my day off. I probably wouldn’t even really understand my connection to St. Patrick’s Day if I didn’t have freckles and sunburns to remind me of my roots every day. Can we really set aside one particular day to feel or remember a certain thing or a specific someone? Why should I remember my heritage every March 17?
In the end, I think the meaning behind and feeling produced by our occasions is within our control. I mentioned 4/20 earlier. Most of us know that to be the day when marijuana aficionados around the country spark up in one big blaze, but it’s also the birthday of Adolf Hitler. Jews and neo-Nazis see April 20 in a very different light. I’m sure it’s also the day thousands of people got married, lost a brother or lost a limb. We have the power to regard, and regard we will, each day in whatever way we want. I have no particular regards for April 20, but I think it is enough to view it without particulars as another spring day for general celebration.
Look, it may be that when we grow older, when we leave the land of weekly celebrations that is I.V., the whole concept of holidays will look different. For the time being, though, I’m happy to live in a place that’s winning the war on everyday life. Who needs Earth Day when the mountains and the ocean make us into an Earth sandwich? Let our international nurses spend International Nurses’ Day (I promise, it’s a thing) in austere reflection. Let the rest of us play golf and beach volleyball.
Here’s the trade I propose: Don’t be ashamed to catch up on laundry on Martin Luther King Day. Think about Martin Luther King next time you hear the N-word rapped at you. Use Labor Day to catch up on homework, but give a nice tip the next time you hire a roofer.
Our marginal holidays were all born of good intentions, but it’s getting to be too much. Take the good intentions and work them into your year, whether you’re doing your honoring with the rest of the world or all by yourself.
Ben Moss wakes up every morning happy to have been born, happy that MLK was born, happy that the U.S. gained its independence, happy that there are groundhogs and happy that we have presidents, among other things.