My mother just turned 80, and the family was together to celebrate not only the milestone but the lovely woman who wears it so well. For clarification, of the two dolls in the above photograph, my mother is the one on the right. Born to a Lebanese father and German mother in a Midwest Mayberry, Mom’s family life was spirited to say the least, a home chockablock with family, friends, food, hospitality and lively conversation.
She may have left the Victorian on Cass Street to marry my father, but the love and warmth of her childhood has followed her throughout her life. As her father told her, she told me, “Always fill a guest’s coffee or tea cup, anything less would suggest they’re not welcome.”
What does turning eighty mean? As a witness to the last 5o or so years of my mother’s life, I see it as an evolving study of how one person can touch many lives. My Mom’s a giver not a taker, an optimist not an Eeyore, an action verb on a page of pronouns, a doer in a world of couch potatoes.
Her road has been bumpy, smooth, adventurous, lonely at times, and life-threatening at others; and despite it all she rarely thinks of herself. To paraphrase Frank Lloyd Wright, for her, youth is a quality, not a matter of her circumstances.
When I was away at college, my Mother made sure I always had my favorite cake on my birthday. Well before the advent of packing peanuts, she would pop some of Orville Redenbacher’s finest, and pack it gently around a cellophane-wrapped, frozen homemade German Chocolate cake. It arrived with nary a crumb or pecan out of place, and rarely lasted a day.
As I explore meaning in my life and asked the big questions, I look to my mother as a example of what to do right. She lives her faith, never does anything halfway, tries new things, embraces those around her and treats life as a gift.
I fear that no matter how hard my Father, brother, sister and I try to find the perfect gift for my mother each year, the offering never compares to the gifts she’s gives us every day.
You must a been a beautiful baby, ’cause baby won’t you look at you now.
Happy Birthday, Mom!
PS: On my flight home, I opened up my carry-on to retrieve a book. There among a tangle of cords, I found some tasty stowaways, a zip-lock bag of homemade goodies . Mom and love strike again (and at any age).