Thankfully, my life has been full of special occasions. Some of my fondest memories revolve around major milestones in my life— my Bat Mitzvah, my wedding, my children’s baby naming ceremonies, my 40th birthday. I remember the people, the music, the food, the overall vibe, and not surprisingly, I remember the speeches. Most of these milestones I have recorded. Every now and again I watch them back, reliving the celebrations and re-experiencing the emotions I felt during the speeches.
At my Bat Mitzvah, my father did a rap. For some reason still unbeknown to me, my father rapped with a Texan accent (he is from Rhode Island). He stood with the microphone, making “beatbox-like sounds” while the band’s drummer accompanied him. Through the rhymes he expressed his pride for all that I accomplished and his love, nothing short of unconditional.
At my wedding, my father once again made a toast, but this was in his regular speaking voice. He recalled how I used to dance on his shoes at the father-daughter dances and how tonight I shouldn’t because he was wearing a brand new pair of patent leather shoes. He talked of my husband’s passion for sports, even if we didn’t root for the same teams. He ended with a fairy tale wish of my girlhood, “May you live happily ever after.”
At my children’s baby naming ceremonies, my husband and I spoke about the loved ones for whom our children are named. My oldest, Rebecca, for my husband’s mother who left this world way too young, and his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. My youngest, Jenna, named for my grandmother who lived every day as a blessing, and grandfather who was a self-made man. We shared a tapestry of memories and how we hoped our children would inherit their namesakes’ strong sense of character.
I turned 40 in September and my parents, husband and best friends all spoke. I remember the love and humor that shone through every speech. After my mother got choked up, my parents retooled the lyrics from Grease’s “Goodbye to Sandra Dee” as my friends chuckled at the mention of “silky drawers.” My husband professed his love by quoting the song lyric, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you. But I love it.” My friends touched on my loyalty, my dependability, and of course, an embarrassing story or two.
I don’t remember every word of every speech at every special occasion. But I do remember the general gist, the punch lines and the stories. I remember how the words of my loved ones made me feel. And I remember how my own words resonated in the room.
It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to give a speech in someone else’s honor. Make it count. Make it memorable. Make it special.