She noticed the bottle of champagne in the bottom of her refrigerator, and suddenly it occurred to her that it had been there for exactly a year.
"Isn't it a shame," my friend says. "A whole year has passed, and we have had neither the occasion to drink it nor the impulse."
There is a bottle of champagne in the bottom of my refrigerator, too. And it has been there longer than I would like to admit. Like my friend, I wondered why so much time had passed without a celebration.
Looking back over the year, there were opportunities, I guess. Reasons why you might pop the cork and tip the foaming bottle toward a couple of your nicest glasses. Clink them with a spouse or a friend, smile and say something to commemorate the moment. Why had we not taken those opportunities?
Too busy, too tired. Too many places to go. Too much to be done. There is this list we keep, and for every chore we cross off, we add three to the bottom. When did we get this dutiful? When did all the spontaneity leave us? When did the champagne moments end?
Champagne has come to symbolize big-time celebrations, and so I guess there is some hesitation to break it out for life's little victories -- the wallpaper is up, the trim is painted, the deck is finished -- or life's smaller occasions -- a sister visits, a friend drops by with good news.
But as another friend says, "This might be as good as it gets." We should be savoring the good times in these times. Trouble or changes wait for us around the next bend in the road. But, like all of you, I am tired of people telling me to stop and smell the roses. That admonition is starting to sound like just one more thing I am not getting done. But stop and celebrate? That has some appeal.
What would it take for you to drop everything and open a bottle of champagne? I asked around, and it was strange to listen to the hesitation in the voices of my friends. What would it take?
"Maybe if I got pregnant," says a friend. "I'm not sure, though, really. I don't know that we have any fewer occasions than we once did. But we are so caught up in the daily routine. We might think about it briefly and then not do it because we realize we have to go pick up one of the kids somewhere."
A new house, a new job, a big promotion, say other friends. But those occasions are fewer for those of us settled into our middle years. Our transitions have been made, and we are hard at the business of staying in one place, earning a living and raising kids.
A birthday, others say. But they all end those suggestions with a question mark in their voice. These days, the birthdays we celebrate come with Barbie napkins and treat bags. We're not sure we want to celebrate any more of our own.
Anniversaries? I hear hesitation there, too. My husband and I love each other, but not necessarily on the same day. Relationships ebb and flow through the toil of home, work and kids, and they do not necessarily peak when the calendar says they should.
"I love champagne," says another friend. "But I save it for really special occasions. A promotion, an anniversary or a passing grade on my son's spelling test."
She was kidding, but there is truth in what she says. We are busy celebrating milestones in our children's lives -- their achievements, not our own. My son survived his school's winter strings concert, and we all went out for ice cream sundaes. Nobody suggested champagne.
"Being parents changes what and how we celebrate," says another friend.
She is right. When my first child was born, my husband had a restaurant prepare dinner and champagne, and he brought it to my hospital room in celebration. When my second child arrived, I don't think he brought me a diet soda from the hospital snack bar. He hardly had time to visit, because there was a 2-year-old at home to be cared for.
"We have an unopened bottle, too," says still another friend. She sounds almost shocked at the discovery. Then she offers this scenario: "A special holiday. The kids are in bed. Your daily drudgeries are over, and you are sitting down together on a particularly meaningful wavelength, talking about feelings instead of a list of chores. That would be a good time. But you could never plan that."
New Year's Eve is coming, and the calendar says it is time to
celebrate with champagne. We do have that bottle in the bottom of the fridge. Maybe we'll save it. For a really special occasion.