Far out. Here we are again: Black Wednesday.
The hardest part about writing about Black Wednesday from a Catholic perspective is the, um, Catholic part.
Let’s face it: Black Wednesday is occasionally referred to as “black out Wednesday.” It’s not exactly a celebration of moderation. Chesterton’s famous quote from Orthodoxy about drinking is especially relevant on Thanksgiving Eve: “[T]he proper form of thanks . . . is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.”
Tonight is, first and foremost, the beginning of the thankfulness season, and if you’ve ever spent a moment thinking about thanks, you realize it implies God, and if there’s a God who cares enough to bless you, the proper response is humility and the restraint that comes with it. Of these things, entertain no doubt.
But those lofty things whirl ferociously with some powerful mundane things that create a vortex of drunken celebration: college kids converging on the local bars scene, the four-day weekend, high spirits, the holiday season kicking off.
The challenge as a Catholic is to embrace all of it without falling with it. That’s quite a challenge, and one, I fear, I’ve flunked on more than one occasion. It no doubt doesn’t help that I start drinking at 3:00, but that’s what my traditional itinerary calls for. I might need to keep my Breviary in my pocket to remind me about what’s truly important, but from that 3:00 tradition, I cannot–and will not–depart.
I will, however, strive to start slowly this afternoon. I have a growing reason to keep myself sober and reasonably alert as dusk gives way to dark.
My older kids are now joining me at the bar.
I am, to be honest, incredibly nostalgic today. To the point of tears? No, but close.
You see, Black Wednesday was my tradition with my Dad. When I was in college, we would drink when I got home for Thanksgiving. I can’t remember whether we went to the bars, but I know we drank. When I moved back home in 1992, we started the tradition of going to the Hillcrest on this day. We would plan and talk about it:
“Me: We should get there by 3:00 so we’re sure to get a table.”
“Mel: Do we really want to start drinking that early? How about 3:15?”
“Mom: Guys! You can’t start drinking at 3:15! People are coming from out of town to meet you there later that night. You’ll be too smashed.”
“Me: Mom’s right. How about 3:18?”
My Dad has passed on. My brothers and I have continued the tradition, with full support of nephews and friends. And for that I’m greatly, greatly appreciative (rather, thankful).
But now my kids are coming of age. Alex (22) and Abbie (21) will be joining me tonight. Alex was there last year and it was great. I didn’t even realize at the time that he was continuing a tradition that spans over a quarter century, but it hit me today as I put together this post. And now that two of my kids are joining me, with Jack just two years away, it makes me think of Dad and the march of time.
It makes me even more thankful.
And even more concerned about how I’m going to surf that vortex of drunken celebration that is Black Wednesday.
Wish me well. Say a prayer for me. Light a candle.
But know, first and foremost: If, God willing, all goes as planned, I’ll be thankful and happy.