I cried today. And not for the first time since “social distancing” and “shelter-in-place” entered my vocabulary. But today bears mention because I shed happy tears. One of my daughter’s closest friends turned 13 today; she celebrated becoming a teenager without the early-morning before-school breakfast with all of her friends, and without the locker-decorating and sleepover parties that have become the staple of girlhood in our town. Instead, her “squad” of over a dozen girls coordinated an effort to show up at her house at the same time to sing “Happy Birthday” from their cars — while sticking their heads out of sunroofs, propping themselves up in car windows. The cacophony of honks were enough to rouse anyone in a 6-block radius from a mid-afternoon nap or Netflix stupor. The girls littered their friend’s yard with poster-sized signs bearing messages of well wishes and undying tween friendship. Her mom wiped away tears; I wiped away tears. Then we all went home — you know, the same place we’ve spent the last few weeks with the exact same people, to do the exact same things we’ve been doing.
As a member of the event industry in my role with PartySlate, I’ve been marinating in the dashed expectations of postponing events and milestones passing. I’ve spoken to couples, Bar and Bat Mitzvah parents, and others who have shared their experience of making difficult decisions about events they’ve looked forward to for years. These celebrations that they’ve eagerly anticipated — for both their rites of passage, as well as for the opportunity to spend time with their closest family and friends — have moved further out in time. And those new dates aren’t a guarantee of being pandemic-free, yet they write them in their calendars (maybe in pencil, though). I’ve also spoken to couples and Bar and Bat Mitzvah parents who have decided to have their ceremonies and only postpone the celebration. They’ve kept it intimate or invited guests to join “virtually.” They’ve gone ahead and said their “I dos” to become married, and their “aliyahs” (Hebrew prayers) to become adults.
It all reminds me of Jurassic Park — not the Chris Pratt-sequels of present day, but the Jeff Goldblum-original of my childhood. In the movie, the ever-wise scientist and skeptic, played by Goldblum, utters words that have stuck with me since I first saw the flick. Speculating on whether dinosaurs could be born in an all-female population, he says — in his quirky, pause-filled way of giving every utterance gravitas — “If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands into new territories, it crashes through barriers — painfully, maybe even dangerously — but, well, there it is…life finds a way.”
Life finds a way. That’s what we did this morning when we shout-sang “Happy Birthday” out of our car windows to brighten a little girl’s day. And that’s happening now, in our industry and worldwide. Instead of calling each other, we are FaceTiming; instead of meeting, we are Zooming; instead of lunchtime mingling, we are attending webinars. In unprecedented numbers, we are leveraging technology to create face-to-face interactions. We are populating our lives with the vocal tones and facial expressions denied to us via the text and email we have relied upon for so long to save time. We have more time now and, however improbable, we are using it to connect with each other.
More importantly, we are planning.
Those couples? Bar and Bat Mitzvah parents? Milestone birthday celebrants? Gala chairs? Corporate organizers? They are still planning future events. They are still visiting PartySlate in droves. And when there’s planning for the future, that means only one thing: hope. So, I am doing my best to counter the bleak pandemic news with the joy of planning and dreaming. As the managing editor at PartySlate, I pledge to you that we will keep serving up positive, relevant stories about this peculiar time in our lives — and that we will also continue to provide inspiration and suggestions; we will continue to curate and bring you our favorite ideas; we will continue to offer hope.
On that note, we’ve launched a new campaign, #CelebrateSoon. We recognize that though gatherings are on hold, we can still happily remember parties past and get excited about future festivities. One thing this time has taught us is that events are not going away; people want, and need, to be with each other, and not from our cars, not through a digital screen, but shoulder-to-shoulder, raising a glass to toast our good fortune. And after all of this time apart, we will be all-the-more ready to celebrate — together.
Pamela Rothbard, PartySlate Managing Editor
Take a moment to share your favorite event photo, or photo of you celebrating with friends and family, on Instagram and tag @PartySlate with the hashtag #CelebrateSoon. We want to know what you’re excited about celebrating when this is all over and help you relive your happiest moments.