Once you’re past a certain age, you’re not supposed to celebrate your birthday unless you hit a new decade. That, coupled with the fact that my parents are very proud “not-party people,” and I knew that when my mom’s 59th birthday rolled around we would probably gather for a simple dinner and watch some TV.
I thought this was hogwash. Who in the world is ever not better off for having gathered with a few friends with food and drink in common celebration? What is there not to like?
With my mom’s birthday fast approaching I was doing some heavy thinking as to what we could possibly do to make it special, and I realized that the hang-up isn’t actually that my parents are not party people, but that they are not party planners. So, I would just have to do the planning for them.
My parents made a big move in the past few months and have been out of town a lot since then, so cobbling together a guest list at the new home would be my first challenge. I didn’t want our backyard to be filled with a bunch of half-baked acquaintances, chattering stiltedly over white wine before fleeing. No. I wanted the house’s first “party” to be a somewhat raucous affair, defined by the bold conversation and bubbling hilarity only intimate friendships can inspire.
I got in touch with just three people – a sailor friend named Dana, a brash and bawdy broad who has been lobbying for my parents to move here since I was a young girl and who has helped them immeasurably since in their quest to become better seamen, and my mother’s college roommate Kathy and her husband Beau, both of whom my mother has now been friends with for over 40 years. They live in another seaside Massachusetts town, theirs about an hour and a half from ours.
With decades of friendship between us, we would be but a party of 7, but we would be special.
By 5:45 I had been feverishly cooking and prepping for hours, my guests would be arriving within minutes, and my mom was screaming at a Red Sox game, oblivious.
“Hey Mom, why don’t you, uh, retire outside? For the cheese platter?” I suggested. Miracle of miracles, or perhaps just because the Sox were already ahead by so much, or perhaps because she just really loves cheese, she listened.
Dana arrived first, and my mom had a mouth full of cracker. She still managed to cry out, “Dana??” Only a minimal amount of crumbs were sprayed in her surprise, I’m happy to report.
When Kathy and Beau arrived soon after, my mom leapt to her feet and they screamed and hugged like they must have back in college lo those many years ago.
And so we were off. Three courses and many bottles of wine and belly laughs later our guests stumbled out into the night and I messaged Sam, wondering “Will we still be friends like that in 2055?” The answer, of course, being yes.
My mom was so happy, you guys. So happy. It’s the little things – the people you love making a show of their care for you, gathering in celebration of an insignificant year because we can. Because life is worth celebrating, whether there are milestones inherent in the number or not. Why not eat, drink, and be merry together?
Happy birthday, Mom. You deserve it. I love you.