I seldom wear a watch anymore, and when I do, it’s more to spice up my go-to ensemble of varying shades of grey. But at least once a day, I always check the time – noting the hour inside the blingy circle of diamonds on my wrist or the readout on my iPhone. Because when 5 PM strikes, I smile. It’s Happy Hour time.
Lest you envision me racing to find the nearest fifth of 50 proof or a stool at the corner pub offering a 3-buck beer Happy Hour special, I’ll clarify: Happy Hour for me is about pausing, appreciating, and savoring the current moment in this beautiful life I’ve been given. Yes a few margaritas over the years have certainly added some ‘happy’ to this wonderful hour, but upon reflection of past happy hours, I’ve come to realize that the simple act of being fully present during this hour is what has made it so special to me:
1. Family time. My mom and step-dad, in between owning and operating an antiques showroom and design business that required frequent trips overseas to Europe and Asia, made time to settle three antsy adolescents down to nightly happy hour when they were home. When not abroad foraging for a finely crafted gilt bronzed antique mirror or a beautifully painted French provincial chest of drawers, they rounded us up every evening to settle into the library my step-father built on top of what was once a concrete slab masquerading as a deck. They dressed for the occasion – mama’s long skirts and dangling earrings, papa’s perfectly pressed trousers – poured a splash of scotch on ice into elaborately etched crystal tumblers (also discovered on a buying trip), and offered up something fizzy and fabulous for us kids. 7uP was anything but when poured into a crystal tumbler that traveled thousands of miles to arrive at our Seattle home. Pretzel sticks and unsalted peanuts rounded out the hour, along with a run-down of each member’s day (brother hit two doubles for the team; sister got an A on her Chem exam; I tore another piece of skin off the palm of my hand after too many spins on the monkey bars) before settling down to dinner.
2. Party time. 7up gave way to stronger spirits during college years – especially the summers in between. Happy Hour meant searching high and low for the best boozy deals – local bars offering the strongest, cheapest drinks rounded out with good-looking fellows to admire. Bonus points for outdoor decks, heat lamps, and jello shooters. Thankfully I quickly outgrew this phase before too long.
3. Training time. Endurance endeavors took center stage in my 20s and 30s. With a full-time corporate gig, Happy Hour libations meant electrolytes chased down with a ten-mile run or 25-mile ride depending on the current cardio obsession of choice. Sitting most of the day fantasizing about what it would be like to make movement my career made these happy hours feel especially precious.
4. The present time. These days Happy Hour might mean a glass of wine with my honey. Or a stroll around the neighborhood, slow enough to notice the bright red cardinal whizzing by. Or splattering ingredients all over my spring roll recipe print-out in an attempt to create party-worthy bites for tomorrow’s shindig.
Clearly, Happy Hour has been a constant throughout my life. And at the same time, changing through the decades. Kinda like life. So here’s to 5 PM – my favorite hour.