I started this blog with the idea of promoting the concept of making the best out of an incredibly tough situation. That is the sudden and brutal death of my both my parents simultaneously back in February of this year, and then dealing with the pandemic that has affected us all in many ways.
All of this was a situation that was fairly unique to me and maybe on a larger scale than what some of you may be dealing with (but maybe not), but I wanted to share with you another situation in which I tried to make the best of yet another, let’s be honest, crappy situation, that I felt was much more universal and widespread right now.
My husband, Ron, had planned to walk at his college graduation this May, as many other college and high school graduates had before COVID-19 came into the picture. Even before the ceremony was officially canceled, we knew that it would be. He insisted that he wasn’t upset or disappointed, and while I knew this was most likely true as Ron is always very appreciative of anything and always very go-with-the-flow, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I needed to do something. Already our year had been turned upside down by the death of my parents, wouldn’t it be nice to have some sense of normalcy, some sort of celebration for his achievement?
The idea to do something lingered in my head for a few days without really turning into much of anything. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to have any sort of party, even if it was a smaller group and we did our best to socially distance, but I still wanted his family to be involved somehow. I tossed out the idea to a few of his family members about doing some sort of virtual party over a video chat, but I wasn’t sold on the idea, which was when our sister-in-law came up with the idea to have everyone prepare videos ahead of time and send them to me to show him whenever I did our small celebration together.
I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of something as simple as a video, but once she mentioned that, I knew it was the perfect idea. I wouldn’t have to worry about figuring out a time that everyone would be available for a video chat, but everyone could still be involved and give Ron some message of congratulations. I reached out to the rest of his family and decided that I would surprise Ron with all of this that same weekend. We were going to house/dog sitting for my sister that weekend, and it seemed like it would be easier to surprise him with the decorations then than it would be to do it at our apartment.
Over the next few days, I created a small banner, got balloons, got together a graduation cap and gown, and put all the videos together just using iMovie on my phone (which was SO incredibly simple!). And then, at the last minute, I remembered something Ron had said recently when we were dreaming about where we would go if we could actually go on a trip and money wasn’t an issue. He mentioned that he would love to go somewhere tropical, like the Bahamas or Hawaii, and I remembered that we had Hawaiian/Beach décor in a storage room at work that I could borrow for work. My sister also had a small blow up pool that would be perfect for the two of us to just hang out in on Saturday after we did our dinner and graduation celebration on Friday night. I even downloaded a free printable for fake airplane tickets where I could write in the destination as Hawaii, the time of departure, etc.
On Friday night, I left work a little early to put up all the decorations, both graduation in the kitchen/eating area and Hawaiian on the outdoor deck and in the guest bedroom we stayed in. And while Ron had somehow caught on to the fact that the surprise I was planning had to do with graduation, he was surprised and nearly moved to tears by the video slideshow (which we can now keep forever and replay if we want to), and he was not expected the tropical “staycation” at all.
Now, I know this post may be coming a little late for some of you to celebrate graduation, but maybe not. And even if it is, you could still use this same concept to try and make a birthday for someone special or something like an anniversary feel special despite the restrictions placed on us due to the pandemic. But I do want to stress that you don’t have to go out and spend money on a lot of decorations that are only going to be used once before being thrown away. For this, all I used were some balloons, a few candles, and a banner for the graduation decorations and then a few Hawaiian leis, pineapple cups, colorful paper lanterns, yard games that were already at my sister’s house, and my sister’s blow up pool. And while I realize not everyone has access to a storage closet at work with things like Hawaiian leis, balloons, and pineapple cups or even access to a blow up pool or yard games, I think you would be surprised what kinds of things you might have leftover from a child’s birthday party, what seasonal décor could be repurposed, or what could be borrowed from friends or family (at a safe distance of course). So get creative! It should not be about spending money or ordering junk from Amazon or Oriental Trading, but rather, relishing in the celebration itself. And at the end of the day, things like a hand-cut bouquet of flowers, a heartfelt card or poster, a few balloons, or a quick video or photo slideshow can go a long way.
And while our celebration with just the two of us was not quite the same as seeing him walk across the stage and having all of his family there for pictures, I think our celebration was a great example of making the best out of the situation. And I’m sure it’s a graduation that will stick out in everyone’s minds for years to come.