My wife and I treated ourselves to a 50th wedding anniversary gift, with a trip to Southeast Asia. We got back just two days before the December 26th date, on which our daughters planned a surprise party. Elaine and I were only told to bring outrageous wedding attire, and that a limo would be picking us up at the Las Vegas airport.

I was still jet-lagged when we got to Vegas, so when I saw a chauffer holding up a sign that that said Hammer I kept looking around and when I found no others remotely resembling our name, it finally crossed my fuzzy mind that this could be it. I went up to the driver and asked him if that was half the name, and he laughed and said yes it just didn’t fit. I said no problem; I’ve never quite fit in.

He took us to the Bellagio Hotel, where a two-room suite awaited us, with four flat-screen TVs, and his and her bathrooms (mine had a steam room). I thought I wouldn’t have to leave this room for the next three days to have a good time.

I prepared for the festive evening in the steam room and then dressed up in a silver lame suit with hot pink lining, and a feathered top hat. Elaine wore her daughter’s wedding gown with a 3-foot train, and carried a bouquet of artificial white roses. My daughters and granddaughter were dressed as mini-skirted vamps; my sons, as a  dark-glassed, Mafioso security team.

We first gathered in the suite for champagne and a nostalgic photographic trip down memory lane. Then down the elevator to proceed through the casino to our waiting limousine. The walk through the casino however became an impromptu parade. One son walked ahead whispering into the palm of his hand “the eagle has landed, repeat, the eagle has landed and we’re moving toward the front door”.

It’s a Saturday night crowd in Las Vegas and the place is jammed, but the people divided creating a path for Elaine and me to walk arm in arm down the red carpet.  Elaine, waving her bouquet, announced 50 years, and the crowd exploded; cheering and applauding. The joyful energy of this spontaneous celebration was palpable. People surrounded us in the lobby wanting their pictures taken with us.

We were cheered into the waiting limo, which took us to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, for a photo-op with a crooning Elvis. The parade moved to the Little White Wedding Chapel where Pastor Bill renewed our wedding vows. Elaine and I sat in the back of a vintage, pink and white Cadillac convertible with our two-year-old grandson at the wheel. It was one of those; I could die happily moments.

Then to an exquisite dinner in a chi-chi restaurant 32 stories above the Strip, and ended up in a disco bar just as the music was cranking up. In full regalia the ensemble moved toward the dance floor, high-fiving the crowd along the way. I waltzed with my wife to cheers (another one of those I could die happily moments).

It’s part of our nature to want to participate in joyful, communal celebrations. We need more such spontaneous gatherings because they renew the bonds that hold us together as community. Dance in the streets and in the lobbies, create a passionate energy that lifts the human spirit.

Thanks to you all Relatives for all your good blessings.

Mi Takuye Oyacin