On your 75th birthday, will you celebrate with sparklers or M-80s?
Last year, when we were toasting grandma’s 74th, we asked her how she’d like to commemorate the ‘big one,’ since three-quarters of a century was right around the corner. “How about skydiving?” she suggested.
She was kidding, of course. But she should know by now that kidding, in this family, is taken very seriously. So when I told her it was time to start planning her jump, she confessed to chickening out. “Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. But how about going hot air ballooning with all my grandkids? That would be a hoot.”
No doubt. But the risks of putting the majority of her descendants in a small basket thousands of feet up in the air with direct access to fire were high (pun intended), especially if her 14-year-old pyrotechnic grandson was involved. Plus, the youngest grandchild, age four, couldn’t see over the edge of the basket, and how fun would that be?
We wanted Grandma to memorialize her 75th with an experience of what psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined “flow.” His studies on peak experience revealed that “the best moments occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something worthwhile. Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain; happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak.”
Or soaring, as the case may be. We wanted Grandma to have a peak experience that would be thrilling and memorable, bring lasting happiness, and give her a great story to shame her pals that would most likely be badly serenaded at Applebees. So we opted for plan C, concocted over cocktails in grandma’s absence (which is almost certain to produce undesirable results).
It involved flying. Indoors.
Her adventure began with an early morning knock on the door by a mysterious figure dressed in boots, a trench coat, gloves, and a paper bag over its head. The figure held a ransom note which read:
This is a 75th birthday kidnapping; do not be afraid.
Follow these instructions:
1. Go potty.
2. Wear tennis shoes.
3. Put on this blindfold.
If you’re good, you will get chocolate.
Unfortunately, the ornery old coot was not good, and did not get chocolate (but that’s okay, because the rest of us enjoyed it). Grandma tried to unmask the mysterious figure while insisting she wanted to stay home and finish her latte. So we threatened her with unmentionable things and made her put on the blindfold anyway.
She was chauffeured to I-Fly Seattle, and upon removing the blindfold, was surprised to see her children, children-in-law and nine grandchildren all ready to celebrate in high-flying style. Before she could protest further, we signed her up, weighed her in, and stuffed her into a superman outfit.
And fly she did. Grandma’s gracious flight instructor escorted her into the wind tunnel, and thanks to wind speeds of over 110 mph, had her soaring in no time. She likened it to sticking her head out the car window while driving on the freeway. But better.
In life, you don’t remember the sparklers, you remember the M-80s. Way to celebrate with a bang, grandma. Happy 75th birthday.
What shall we do for your 80th?