22 September 2014

My Mom's 90th birthday, August 18, 2014

A blurry 90th birthday photo,
a beautiful metaphor for how fast it all goes!
 I still can't quite believe that I helped my Mom, my dear Mom, celebrate her 90th birthday last month.  When I say the number, it doesn't compute.  My Mom, has been my Mom, my entire life, clearly. And she has always been the youngest-hearted woman, every step of the way. 

My Mom, c. 1942

When I was a young girl, I never could quite articulate how she was different from my friends' mothers--most of them born in the late '40's or 50's--closer in age to my oldest sister than to my mother.  I think it was my fear of hurting her feelings to call out the fact that her hair (set in rollers & sprayed within an inch of becoming plastic) was so NOT hip compared to the long, straight Cher-like locks of 'younger' Moms.  Her experience of growing up in the Depression & listening to Cole Porter vs the Equal Rights Amendment & Simon & Garfunkel of The '70's, seemed ridiculously out of date.  "Who even cares about the dumb Depression?"  I thought!  And the list of comparisons to younger Moms went on and on. 

My beautiful parents, c. 1948
She was 42 years old when I was born; I was her eighth & last child. And with my place in the family, came the role of being her last chance at Motherhood.  Possibly, her chance to do all the things that she never had time to do with the others.  Her chance to try out her own progressive ideas (for a depression-era Irish Catholic, progressive is quite relative)--but progressive they were compared to what my siblings had known.  Her desire to hold me close and teach me all she could--to sew, to bake, to do just about everything with my hands--embroider, crotchet, knit, cross stitch, needle point.  To garden, to appreciate our farmer's market, to pull tomato bugs off the vine, that list goes on and on.  
My mom used to tell me that she had me, just to keep her young. And so I took it as the truth and 'young' I kept her.  Pushing her up mountain ranges to go hiking with us; taking her to mudbaths in Calistoga with us; having her work the CD player during the birth of my daughter. Whatever was happening in my life, I wanted her to be part of the experience. 

1996 New York City
When I think of what Motherhood meant for my Mom--with a a newborn at the age of 42, (in addition to 6 others ranging in age from 2 years-old to 15 years-old) being consider a 'late in life endeavor', I know by today standards it's quite the norm.  And I think of all my Mother-friends who will be having 90th birthday's with their 40-something children in tow.  Motherhood amongst "women of a certain age" is no longer the outlier, but more the norm, at least in my world.   And for those birthdays in 40-something years,  I know its very presumptuous to expect that we will all be around to notice, but I hope that we will know such tenure in life and can share with our children and grandchildren, what she was able to share with me and my family.
Helping out at a Ses Petites Mains' event

There are times I feel slightly envious of my friends with Mothers who are in their 60's or 70's, with so much life still in front of them--so much time with their children, so much time for re-establishing the Mother/Daughter role.  But the envy doesn't last long, as the richness that she bestowed upon me makes me realize that things are just as they should be.  And I check myself again, as it really isn't envy, its just a desire to never have to say goodbye to her. 
The Nutcracker with Somerset, 2013


And it is for that reason, that this birthday was so very bittersweet for me.  All the while watching her enjoy the little celebrations, I knew that each moment forward was really a step away from her.  And with each day, I feel the same. 

My daughter Somerset &
her 'Mammam' 2009

My goal for her 90th year, is to live 'as large' as we can -- where 'living large' really means, spending time--drinking tea & coffee, making red sauce, and sharing all that we can with her.  Its the little things, after all, that make life seems so large, right?

Happy 90th Mom.

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