I've never completely understood why we let the calendar have such dominion over our lives. No wearing white after Labor Day, Memorial Day as the official start of summer, New Year's Day we have to eat black eyed peas. I used to roll my eyes when people would talk about what they needed to do on this particular day or another -- things they could do at any time, but felt compelled to do along with everybody else because the calendar said so.
Now I think I'm getting the hang of it. On Labor Day weekend, for the last several years, one or another of our friends has organized a picnic at the lake or invited everyone over to grill out. It's an extra day of leisure, to be sure, but it's also a reminder. We need to gather with each other, feast, play, communicate, empathize, connect.
As a loner by nature, I always resented the times that tradition took away my freedom to keep to myself. I'm glad my children, at least in their pre-teenage years, don't have that attitude. They love going to others' houses for parties or having people over at our house. They look forward to those special days on the calendar that signal celebrations.
I still prefer to stay away from the big locations on the big days -- the crowds, the traffic jams, the hassle and expense. But I understand much better why these red-letter days trigger people to make special plans and special efforts. It's because the calendar can remind us to take time for each other, and to take time to mark time. As time begins to pass quickly in our children's lives and in our lives with them, I begin to see the value of that attitude.