Monday April 6, 2020
April: Month of Coronavirus Birthdays, Hoorays and Horses’ Asses
April is the birthday month of Rileys. Eight birthdays in all of the family by a combination of three of the five kids (including me), my sister-in-law, second and third gen children of the family, and one significant other. It’s a month that requires a lot of card buying and mailing – we all live all over the place.
It will be a month of birthdays upon which I hope we all look back with our healthy selves on our coronavirus birthday celebrations, held alone but alone together.
Today is my big sister Marti’s day…all day. Here’s to you, Marti. We’re all singing “Happy Birthday” to you, followed by our traditional family “Hooray” chant. If you’re not in the inner circle of Rileys, you most likely have not heard about this version of the “Hooray” chant.
It’s an endearing chant born of a moment of serendipity during a Riley family gathering in Beech Mountain, NC for Labor Day 2008. While we were all together, Julie and I orchestrated a little cocktail hour celebration for our daughter’s recent college graduation. With champagne in hand, we all circled around on the deck, I made a short toast to Blair and then Dad started a rhythmic celebratory clap setting rhythm and we all quickly picked up on it not knowing exactly where it was going. Dad started chanting, “Hooray for Blair! Hooray for Blair!” in time with the claps. We picked up his queue and joined in unison as we hit the third “Hooray for Blair!” at which point Dad took an unexpected and startling turn to finish with, “Hooray for Blair, she’s a horse’s ass!” Bam.
We all gasped. What? Did Granddaddy just say that about Blair? Our sweet daughter? His granddaughter? A horse’s ass? We were all stunned and just looked at Dad. He seemed a little shocked himself but managed to downplay it all. He said, “What? You’ve never heard that before?” This was classic Homer, acting as if it was nothing. Then he held up his glass and said as sweet and grandfatherly as you could imagine. “Congratulations Blair. We’re very proud of you.”
That started the tradition which has lasted 12 years because, true to Riley form, we don’t let things go. It also brings us into a closer circle of memory of Dad’s sense of humor and timing.
By now, everyone has borne the indignity of the coda to be counted a true Riley. We added that to all “Happy Birthday” songs within the family and, occasionally, with folks we trust would understand and even appreciate being included after the initial shock followed by explanation.
So, “Hooray for Marti! Hooray for Marti! Hooray for Marti! She’s a horse’s ass!”
Happy birthday Big Sister. You…were the first born of the horse’s ass crowd. Enjoy.
As we continue to stay apart from each other in physical distance…Take care. Stay Safe. Call family and friends. And, continue to “Stay the F**k Home!