Milestones, inch-stones: the reasons we celebrate


By Christina Capecchi

I have been anticipating my birthday with the vigor and vigilance of an 8-year-old. For months I’ve pondered what I will eat and where I will shop and how I will dress. I’ve dedicated an entire weekend to Favorite Things. I’ve even devised a wish list.

It felt awfully indulgent at first, but then I considered how novel the impulse is and vowed to nurture it. If so many birthdays have slipped by quietly, the desire to celebrate this one — just another notch along my 20s — may be worth heeding.

The past year seems to merit celebration. I experienced the highs and the lows more acutely: late nights, early mornings, and a few leisurely weekends that rolled by with no plans and great fun. 

I bought more flowers, whose bloom I studied and relished like never before.


I settled into a home perched beside an old oak, and just as I am looking up at its winding branches silhouetted against the sky, so too am I sinking roots.  

The early spring hydrated my brittle parts. I have marveled over the way humidity heals, relaxing the tightly-wound bands in my chest. I am laughing more readily, and when anger flashes, I seem to have greater odds of holding my tongue. 

This year I worked harder, prayed harder and loved harder — which probably means I lived better. So if I feel older, that may be why. And it’s worth toasting.

We’re in the season that celebrates landmarks with wedding bells and graduation parties, and we are following the script, sending cards with doves and eagles, starbursts and fireworks.

But my desire to celebrate is not about milestones: It’s about inch-stones, the small steps that take courage, the times you hold your breath and tip toe along. Scootches, not leaps.

Recognizing an inch-stone is like catching a butterfly; it requires attentiveness and good timing and brings a sense of wonder, allowing us to feel the warm breeze of the Holy Spirit and see God’s hand in our lives.

We’re usually too busy to notice an inch-stone passing by, so when we do, and we feel that desire to celebrate, we should honor it.  

I know a widower who is raising nine kids, and he celebrates every Sunday with Mass and brunch. He fries bacon, plays rock, and everyone dances.

A reporter friend won a blogging award exactly one year after being laid off from her local newspaper. She celebrated by blogging and bragging and exercising. Another reporter signed with a book agent and then took a celebratory hike, unplugging from her computer for an entire day.

My longtime softball coach self-published his father’s biography. His kids threw him a book launch party, sharing their takeaways over red wine.  

When we celebrate these moments, we mark time together. We echo Mary’s Magnificat. Our gratitude becomes poetry and, in turn, praise. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,” we sing. “The mighty one has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

It was Mary, after all, our most gracious advocate, who prompted Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, pointing out, “There is no wine.” She wanted the celebration to continue, and so did her son. Today we remember that impulse, the second luminous mystery of the Rosary.

Mary suffered and she celebrated, because joy involves grief in a well-lived life.

That’s what I’m striving for this birthday, why I keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge. I’m ready at a moment’s notice.

(Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at

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