Our family likes lifting our glasses in a toast and saying “Cheers”. I’m not sure how or when we started. I grew up toasting. Recently, my internationally traveling brother taught our family that in most cultures when you lift your glass to toast each person you are supposed to make eye contact. Of course, now we toast and open our eyes really wide as if to say, “See, I’m making eye contact” which makes us laugh.
The history of toasting is varied. Some say it came out of a fear of being poisoned so you would clink glasses purposely sloshing your drink into your companions so everyone would die together I guess.
Other research highlights more festive and less suspicious reasons for the tradition. Romans evidently sometimes dropped a bit of dry bread in bitter wine as they toasted to mellow the flavor. Some researchers say the tradition came out of a desire to use all of one’s senses. You already could feel, smell, touch and taste your drink, why not hear it too? I like that explanation, another way of being fully present.
Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr calls it the Naked Now. I like that because it is easy to remember and forces me to be present to the sacrament of now…right here…this. This is the moment we’ve been given. This meal with these people, now. It is worth a toast. It is worth making eye contact. Father Rohr writes, Words by themselves divide and judge the moment; pure presence lets it be what it is, as it is. I’m practicing the art of the naked now.
Our two year old grandson doesn’t call it a toast or say cheers. He says “Crash” and lifts his sippy cup to his dining companions. I marvel at the mystery of life once again where someone who was not even in existence a few years ago could now be redefining a whole family tradition.
Last weekend my husband attended an 80th birthday celebration for a treasured aunt in our family. There were lots of “crashes” for her. She was praised for her love of life; for role modeling for us how to celebrate; for showing us how to go through hard things and come out with grace and joy. We raised our glasses to her making a difference in the world through her teaching profession. We choked up as we tried to tell her how much she means to us. I cried just listening to what others said.
This weekend I’m going on a mother daughter trip to celebrate my daughter and a group of her friends all turning 30 this year. I was thinking of how the toasts might be different for 30 year olds than 80 year olds.
I decided the only difference might be to affirm the 30 year olds in finding out quickly what the 80 year olds know so well. This is our moment. These are our people. Make eye contact. Love hard. Be grateful. Notice things because in 50 years you will realize how fast it is all going.
I’m grateful our daughter already knows so many of these things. She is passing them down to her children. Her two year old knows how to “crash”. He notices the sunrises and the sunsets and names all the colors he sees. The picture above is one he drew of the sunrise, sunset and the bright orange day in between. It took me at least fifty years to notice that with reverence, awe and appreciation.
Recently he said he could smell the sun. His mom asked what it smelled like and he said “sugar.” We’ve been given this one sweet smelling day, just this. This sunshine, these people, this meal, this naked now. Crash!
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, Mimosa/Mocha to Keller and Pace, breast cancer survivor.