Mother’s 80th Birthday

My mother’s 80th birthday is approaching…September 3. She was born in Alabama two days after World War II started in Poland. Sadly, she isn’t here to celebrate her 80th birthday. She died 20 months ago, on December 30, 2017. To say I miss her is an understatement. I’ve written about her before. She was nurturing…nurturing us as well as lots of neighborhood kids and our classmates. She liked for things to be done “the right way.” Yes, she was a rule follower…I got it honestly. But she also had a fantastic sense of humor…it’s necessary in dealing with my brother, for sure. And she had a great sense of adventure and encouraged us, her children, to have a sense of adventure, as well. My husband would tell you she did a good job of instilling a sense of adventure in me.

In November 1997, I decided I wanted to go to Mexico City for vacation. I didn’t have any friends who were interested in going, so I decided I would go alone. A few days before I was scheduled to go, Mother called me and offered to go with me. I knew she was going simply because she didn’t want me to go alone, but it turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. She purchased her airline ticket, and a few days later, we were on our way to an adventure. I had visited Mexico City in 1982, but Mother had no idea what to expect. I tried to make sure she saw everything she could safely see while we were there. We visited El Zocalo, which she found fascinating. We spent a lot of time touring the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, a place she considered one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. We had coffee in the Gran Hotel, an historic hotel facing El Zocalo, admiring the beautiful glass ceiling. We shopped in local markets. We toured El Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Museum of Anthropology. We ate street food. We ate in great restaurants and dined al fresco at different places in La Zona Rosa. She always ordered chicken in molé sauce. And she fell in love with the warm people of Mexico. We spent Sunday afternoon in Chapultepec Park (see info here), visiting the zoo (pandas!) and Chapultepec Castle atop the hill overlooking the park. She laughed for years at how much I made her walk while we were there. And she laughed that we ordered late night room service every night while we were there. In fact, when the hotel put a copy of our bill under the door, I was shocked at the total. Remember, I was single and thirty years old…working in the travel business. I took one look at the bill and said to Mother, “Ummm…this bill is $8000. My credit card won’t take that much!” We quickly remembered, of course, that it was 8000 pesos. At that time, that translated to just over $1000 USD. Since I worked in the travel industry, I had secured us a great rate on the hotel room…80 percent off the rack rate…and we were staying in a beautiful hotel in La Zona Rosa. And in the end, it didn’t matter about my credit card, because Mother picked up the tab, as my parents had done so many times. Good times, no doubt, and it’s an adventure I’m glad we shared. She knew I loved Mexico City, and I am thrilled we experienced it together. I hope to one day take my own daughter to Mexico City to show her the same sights.

I have lived in North Carolina for the past 19 years, and Mother lived in Alabama, so I didn’t see her all the time. Many times, after Daddy died in 2006, I tried to talk her into moving to Charlotte, but she didn’t want to move this far north. I saw her several times a year, but we spoke on the phone every day…and often, more than once a day. She loved to talk about current events. She loved hearing about my life. She loved hearing about my daughter. She loved hearing about our adventures. She loved to talk about football.

She and my daddy also loved sunflowers. I grew some in my garden last year, and this year, I’ve grown more. Some of them are blooming now, but I hope a few will hold out a little longer. I want to have some blooming on her birthday, and it would be great if a few would hold out till Daddy’s birthday on September 14. In fact, two of my Mammoth Sunflowers are side by side…one is about two feet taller than the other, and that height difference makes me think of Mother and Daddy too. Mother was under five feet tall, and Daddy was 6’3″…so it makes me smile every time I see those two mismatched sunflowers.

When she fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, I got up on Christmas morning and drove to Alabama, with the intention of bringing her back to Charlotte with me. On the long drive there, I thought of what I would say to make it clear she didn’t have a choice in the matter…she was coming home with me. But after arriving and speaking with the doctors, I realized she wouldn’t be coming home with me. She would be going home to the Lord. She would be laughing with Daddy soon. She died on December 30, 2017.

On her birthday, I will add a little Bailey’s Irish Cream to my coffee in memory of her. She would laugh if she knew that.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mother.

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Mother/Daughter Traditions

This Mother’s Day will be my first without my mother. My sweet mother died in December, never getting to see 2018. As anyone knows, the “firsts” are tough. It has me thinking about things we used to do together.

One thing we used to do together was clean silver. Doesn’t sound like much of a tradition, right? I know, it sounds tedious, and it can be, but with Mother, it was fun. When I lived in Mobile as an adult, once a year, usually in December, we would clean silver. I would go to her house on a Sunday afternoon, and she would bring out all her silver and the silver polishing cream. We would sit for hours, polishing silver, talking, and laughing…always laughing. Our hands would ache, but we would keep working…and talking…and laughing…and working. After a few hours, everything was sparkling, and the holidays could begin. Every time I clean silver now, I think of her. I’m grateful for that memory.

I have found a much easier way to clean silver. I tried the aluminum foil dip method, but it didn’t work like I thought it would, and it created a sulfuric odor. I found Connoisseur Silver Wipes and tried those. They worked like a charm. With very little effort, my silver comes clean with these wipes. I highly recommend. You can purchase them at Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or online at Amazon here.

When I was a little girl, she and I would make the traditional Easter Bunny cake together…you know, use one circular layer for the face, and use the other circular layer to make ears and a bowtie. At the holidays, we would make what we called a Marshmallow Cake, but I think some people call it a popcorn cake. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s very festive, and it’s what we did. Marshmallows, butter, peanuts/cashews, M&Ms….it makes a lovely treat, especially if you use red and green M&Ms. I’ve known people to throw in other things too…chocolate chips, pretzel pieces…you pick your favorites.img_85301.jpg

Once my daughter turned four or five, Mother would make biscuits with her every time we visited. I’m so glad they did, because it’s a good memory for my daughter. This year at school, her English class put together a cookbook of recipes, and my daughter’s contribution was the buttermilk biscuit recipe she learned from my mother. When I told Mother, she was thrilled, and now that she has passed, I’m even more glad my daughter chose that recipe and more glad they had that “tradition.”

After I was married and while Mother still lived near Mobile, for birthdays or other special occasions, we would have brunch at The Grand Hotel Resort in Point Clear, Alabama. She never wanted to go for holidays, because the crowd was crazy, but for birthdays, it was great. I remember going for several of her birthdays, for a few of my birthdays, and I remember meeting our family friend, Polly, for brunch there one Sunday. I specifically remember going for my 40th birthday. My daddy had died the previous fall, so it was a bittersweet celebration. My husband and daughter were there too, and we got some cute photos of our daughter playing on the hotel lawn by the bay.

 

It’s funny how these traditions start. Sometimes, you do something once, and you don’t realize it’s something you will continue.

Back in 2011, my friend, Leah, and I took our then-seven-year-old daughters to Los Angeles. It was a special trip. I had gotten passes for the girls to visit the set of the Nickelodeon show, iCarly, which was the hottest show on Nickelodeon at the time. Milly had fallen in love with the show when she was about four, so she was a long-time fan. The girls were excited, and frankly, so were the moms!

When we took that trip, it never occurred to me I would start taking Milly to LA every year, but I do. It has become a mother/daughter tradition. We have a favorite hotel, favorite restaurants, favorite foods, favorite shops, and now we have friends we love to visit. Every time we go, we make a point of seeing places we haven’t seen before, but we make sure to visit all our favorites too. Often, we take friends with us. Lots of times, she and I have talked about how it is our mother/daughter tradition, and I tell her I hope we will continue to do it till I’m really old. Maybe one day she will have her own daughter and continue the tradition with her. Don’t get me wrong. I plan to keep going as long as I can! We are making memories she can carry with her for a long time.

I wish I had started doing annual trips with my mother when I was younger. I wasn’t an only child, so sneaking off for mother-daughter trips wasn’t as easy. Plus, my brother always adds an element of humor whenever he’s around. We wouldn’t have wanted to leave him behind anyway. Daddy was funny too.

In 1997, though, I did take Mother on a trip we talked about for years afterward. We went to Mexico City, and it was a glorious, fun trip. I’ve loved Mexico City since 1982, when I visited with a group from high school. Mother and I covered as much of the city as we could in four or five days. The first day we were there, a Sunday, I decided we would go to Chapultepec Park like the locals do on Sundays. Chapultepec Park is Mexico City’s version of Central Park. It’s covers over 1600 acres, and it is the home of Chapultepec Castle, which sits atop a hill with a view overlooking the city. We walked all over that park that day, visiting the castle and the zoo, which was the first zoo outside of China to successfully breed giant pandas. It was a great memory for us that would have made a wonderful tradition.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it has me thinking of all sorts of things I used to do with Mother. Mostly, we laughed, and that’s a great memory. Her compassion and sense of humor were unmatchable. We miss her, but we are thankful to have great memories.

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