A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Polish Style

50th-anniversary-party-5Note: This has surely been the busiest summer of my life, and the column below will let you know one of the reasons why.  We are finally home from this unexpected two-week vacation in Chicago, and though we had a lot of fun, we’re ready to get back into the swing of things.  I have a very long to-do list, and that includes ideas for this upcoming first year of “official” homeschooling as well as ideas for this blog.  I may not get to it all in a timely manner, but such is life with young children.  I hope you’ll stick with me as I muddle through my to-do list!  And thank you to all my new and faithful long-time subscribers!  You give me encouragement to keep this chronicle going.

The following column was printed in the Barrow Journal on August 1, 2012.

This week my family and I are in Chicago visiting my husband’s family and celebrating my in-laws 50th anniversary.  They had a big celebration and invited over 100 family and friends – some people my husband had not seen in 20 or 30 years.

For me it’s always a treat to visit Chicago and get a glimpse into my husband’s childhood, which was very different from mine.  I grew up in a small family with no relations who lived nearby.  I didn’t live in a big city either.  I mostly remember the suburbs of Denver and later Las Vegas, and while it’s a city, the culture and atmosphere is different from Chicago or more specifically, the Polish neighborhoods where my husband grew up.

I’ve heard many stories about the huge weddings, funerals and other celebrations that my in-laws frequent, and for the first time, I got to attend one.  It was an all day affair, though I’m grateful they had it on a Sunday, which meant it lasted until only nine o’clock instead of two in the morning!

We attended church with them in the early afternoon when they renewed their vows.  I was more than a little anxious about my two-year-old sitting silently for one hour during the service.  He was cranky and sour all morning, but when we got to church I realized all he had wanted was me, so as long as he could sit in mama’s lap, he was happy.  Wiggly, but quiet.  Whew!

I knew the five-year-old would be good.  He’s old enough to understand me when I tell him he has to be quiet and good for a while.  Later he told me it was boring, and I could understand that, especially since the service had been in Polish. I’m proud of him for enduring it.

The five-year-old also told me the party was fun, and indeed, it was fun.  Polish people know how to party!  The party lasted six hours, and there was a live band, more delicious food than you can imagine, an open bar, dance floor, and huge dessert table.  Everyone greeted each other with kisses and hugs, and my five-year-old ran around with his cousins like he had known them his whole life.

Whenever someone started to tap their silverware on their dishes, the whole room filled up with clanging and hollering.  This was a signal that the bride and groom are supposed to kiss each other.  My in-laws pretended not to notice while they poured more coffee or took a second helping of food.  Then they would satisfy everyone with a peck on the lips.  My husband told me if they were a young couple newly married, this ritual would happen much more frequently through the night.

My mother-in-law was a wonderful host, and she visited every table to make sure everyone was happy with the food.  I was also introduced to endless, smiling faces who kissed me on the cheeks and told me they knew my husband when he was my sons’ ages.  I could barely hear them because the band played so loud!

My in-laws started the dancing as is typical at a wedding, and my husband followed by dancing with his sister.  Soon a large group of people circled them and held hands, making the festivities escalate.  Everyone in the room danced at some point, and whenever the band played, the dance floor was full.

When the band took a break, the adults drifted back to their tables, and the children took over the dance floor, running in circles or making up games of tag.  Other times they played under the tables draped with tablecloths.  My five-year-old had a great time.

Though my two-year-old can hold his own with the big boys, at one point he retreated to the table where the after dinner dishes had not yet been cleared.  He began to do what he does best – create and build.  He stacked coffee cups and silverware and mixed drinks.  He made a mess, but not as bad as you might think.  Someone came up to me and said he could get a job as a wine server – his motor skills are that good!

It’s not often this stay-at-home mama has a reason to get dressed up and go to a party.  I had a wonderful time, and I especially enjoyed sitting back and taking it all in – a different lifestyle and culture than I’m used to, but for that reason, it’s a joy to be part of it.

I’m glad my in-laws did it, and I think everyone who makes it to their 50th should have a celebration – a kind of summing up of the life they have lived and with the family and friends they have collected over the years.  It’s a wonderful reward for a life well lived.

What I Have Learned From my Polish In-Laws

My 4-year-old calls my in-laws (above) by the Polish names for grandmother and grandfather, Babcia and Dzia Dzia.  That’s pronounced like BOP-CHA and JA JA.

This is a column I wrote for the Barrow Journal.  My in-laws are incredibly hard-working people who want to help their children in every way.  This is something I want to do for my children, and ideally, I think every generation should help each other more than I usually see in this culture we live in.

Click here to read the column.