Saturday, September 28, 2013

Eighties Ladies

"When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable.  
There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age."  -- Victor Hugo

Every September, we celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.  Like Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas, it's a required once a year family celebration...except that for the last few years it hasn't really happened with very much flair, if at all.  

Before that, when our kids were younger, we'd go down and make a week-end out of it...swimming and sunning and being leisurely with grandbabies.  We must have looked like a micro-version of the Kennedy's on Martha's Vineyard.  

But like all good traditions, kids got bigger and school and sports and the busy-ness of life happened and before we knew it, late September blended into early October and the celebrations got smaller and smaller.

That is, until this year.

This year, Suzie would be 80 and a party was necessary.

I was informed that we would be hosting it at our house...
the week-end before Mary Kate left for college...and the party would not just be the tiny little family affair of days gone by.
Nope, this one was going to be a PARTY with a capital P, 
well actually more like a real authentic Mexican Fiesta.
(Can you say: ai, yi,yi,yi??)

Formal invitations
White table cloths
Mariachi Music
The Whole Shebang

Can you say: please, pretty please, no?
Can you say: don't wanna?
Can you say bad attitude?

That's me, over here.

It was bad timing.
It was a royal pain.
It filled me with dread.

And it was the exact opposite of how I wanted to spend my last week-end with Mary Kate,

it was awesome.

There were gobs of Ladies in their Eighties.
Plenty of gents too.

They had their children give them rides.
Virtually all of them needed some sort of help walking.
But they were dressed up and they were ready to party.

They showed up on time, early even.
Quite a departure from the events I host where being a half hour late is the norm.
The party started at 3pm.
The entire group was here by 2:50!
I was dying.

I had to wear a Mexican dress...
grumbling about hell freezing over I did...
turns out those things are comfy. :)

Mary Kate and I rocking that fiesta look -- olé!

The guest of honor arrived by limo -- I told you this was big time.
And the friends of old arrived soon after.
They were polite.
They were delighted.
They were tickled.

It was awesome.

Watching them catch up on forty or fifty years of history was crazy.
Hearing tiny snippets of their life stories stopped me cold.
There was Faye who was married only three months before she had to say good-bye to her husband who went to India for the war for two years.
After he came home, they moved from San Francisco to Butte City (talk about polar opposites!)
and proceeded to keep house for not just her husband and herself but for his two brothers too.
For FOUR years!!
Yep, Faye played surrogate mom to two eligible bachelors for four years 
(can you imagine the reality show version?)
no complaining, 
no irritation,
she just did it...cause that's how it was done.

Of course, she did get her own sweet reward: 
she had a bit of an influence over who those brothers would marry.
Today, all three of the brothers have passed away.
But Faye came to the party with her sisters-in-law, Teresa and Maureen.
It was non-stop adorable.

There were couples there who were literal extensions of each other's limbs.
Together, they climbed the steps.
Together, they navigated the difficulties of the lawn turning into cement and chairs being too close together  and the dexterity required to maneuver to visit someone in the distance.

These guests were gracious, interesting, charming and fun.
They were touched to be invited.
They were the kind of people who still enjoyed life at 80 or 85 or 90.

I want to be rocking a Mexican dress at my 80th birthday too!

And it made me ashamed at how few parties in their honor we have.

I celebrate my children's birthdays in a big way.
But this was my first big party for the generation above me -- 
well, except for an anniversary party or two.
That's just not right.

These people deserve to be celebrated.
We need to honor them and cherish them and bring them out into the sunshine.
They need a big ole fiesta.

They have a lot to celebrate.

And a whole lot to teach us...
if only we would take the time to listen.

I'm grateful that the universe forced my hand.
I'm grateful to the children who drove.
Grateful to my darling sister-in-law and brother-in-law who came to help early and stayed late to clean up...and brought Mexican dresses and Gerbera daisies and delicious cupcakes.
Mostly, I'm grateful to the ladies in their eighties who showed me how to live.

It was awesome -- thank you!

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