Mom turned 63 last week! I can’t believe it. My brother and I celebrated with her in simple style…bouquet of flowers, rocking chairs, singing, fingernail painting, and lots of laughing.
Mom was always great with birthdays. When we were younger she cooked whatever we wanted for dinner and when we were older, we’d go out to dinner wherever we wanted. Mom would also wake up in the morning, blow up a dozen balloons, tie them together with ribbon, curl the ribbon with a pair of scissors and hang the bouquet on the porch light by our front steps. She wanted everyone that passed by the house to know that someone inside was having a birthday.
Three of my mom’s birthdays stand out in my mind. I remember her 40th. We had a surprise party for her. My job in the surprise was to decorate the house. I made signs, put up banners, and went through a hundred old pictures to find a collection to hang on the front door. The picture below of my mom walking through the front door to the surprise is an image I can see with my eyes closed. The other memorable part was her “Over the Hill” birthday cake which had black flowers on it. Everyone’s mouth turned some disgusting purple color so when we posed for a group picture it was full of purple tongues.
I remember her 50th. My mom and brother came to visit me in the Peace Corps in Samoa. She was so excited. It was her first trip out of the country. We took the ferry to the big island. We stayed in beach fales (=thatched huts). I snapped the first picture while she was putting on her makeup and staring at the ocean. She wanted a dozen pictures taken of her in that hut. She loved sleeping on the beach. That’s something we both could agree on. We drove to Falealupo-tai, the last place the sun would set before crossing the international dateline (before the moved the dateline a couple of years ago.) We took the second picture as the sun was setting on her 50th.
The last birthday that stands out is her 60th. By this time she had been in and out of hospitals trying to make an accurate diagnosis for what was going on. The only thing we knew at that point was that something was seriously wrong and getting worse. We had moved her into dependent care because she wasn’t eating or taking her meds. My brother and his wife were living in Africa and I was driving 3 1/2 hours each way, every other weekend to see her. Everyone was struggling. And in the chaos that was those couple of years, my dear friend Jodie and her family hosted an impromptu 60th birthday party for us. We crashed their Sunday family lunch and Jodie had made a birthday cake. We ate, laughed and sat on the porch swing. It was a perfect summer day.
We’ve had our share of big family birthdays, with either a huge trip or an expensive present to mark the day. And what it all comes back to for me is what my mom taught me about birthdays…simple is best. It’s about spending time with someone you love, eating food you love, and maybe a few balloons to let everyone who passes by know you’re having a special day.