Monday, September 7, 2009

The party she didn't want

My mom turned 70 last week, a major milestone anyone's life, but somehow especially so for her. At least we thought so. My sister was in town, and we both agreed that a suitable celebration was not only in order, it was downright mandatory.

Apparently, we were wrong. But not really.

Confused? I will translate.

Mom: You know, I saw all the trouble you and your sister went through for your father*. I just wanted to tell you that I don't expect anything like that.

Translation: The bar has been set pretty high. I might not have been invited to the party, but I don't miss much. I did notice that you were a massive ball of stress for weeks before and after, so I'll cut you a little slack. A little.

Mom: I had this thought that maybe we could just stay in and relax for my birthday. Everyone loves that. The kids could hang out on the couch. We could heat up some frozen dinners, get out the paper plates, and just watch TV. Doesn't that sound like fun?

Translation: Don't mind me. I'll just sit here in the dark. Honestly, who am I to be important enough to use the real plates?

Mom: I had such a lovely party for my 65th. Remember when you had everyone come? That was so nice. I loved that. I'll always cherish that memory. I still look at the pictures from that day and it means so much to me. It really was a once in a lifetime thing. No reason to try to improve on perfection, I always say.

Translation: Don't invite people. I mean it.

Mom: OK, so we'll go out. How about we go to Popeye's and then get Menchie's for dessert?

Translation**: You spend money like there's no tomorrow. I think you might be going broke at any moment. I'll happily sacrifice my birthday dinner if even the suggestion of Popeye's
makes you fiscally responsible for five minutes***. But I know it won't, so my job here is done.

Mom: Tea? Really? Are you sure? Well, if you insist.

We did.

Our experience The Scarlet Tea Room needed no translation. It was a flat out great place that shows how much fun it is to dress up, get festive and truly celebrate. The kids were all wearing outfits that mom had bought just for them, and they greeted each aspect of "high tea" with wide eyed enthusiasm. (We can put in as many of these sugar lumps as we want? I love this place! Pass the tongs!) Our waitress got right into the spirit of the party, and the owner came by with birthday wishes and a hug for my mom. As a bonus, the food was beyond delicious. In addition to flaky chocolate chip, cinnamon, and cranberry scones (with decadent cream and homemade lemon curd) and a long list of inventive tea sandwiches (per my daughter, the egg salad one rocked), they won major points with an incredible strawberry sorbet (my son had six and a half helpings, I think) and an absolutely sinful version of Strawberries Romanoff. Yum. Yum. Yum!!

The next day:

Mom: How much do I love my TV? Thank you for my birthday.

Translation: The TV was exactly what I wanted.
And the tea was nice, too. But what I really loved was seeing my girls and my grandchildren so happy, and that all of us were together. We could have done it on the couch, with paper plates, with a chicken special, or with those fancy strawberries and porcelain tea cups. That's what I've been trying to tell you. It's the people that make the occasion matter. And this was a wonderful occasion. You made me feel special yesterday, and I will cherish it always.

Well said, Mom. Happy, happy birthday to you.

* At the instigation of my stepmother, a gathering of nearly 100 family and friends at my house for his 70th, catered by In N Out.
** Just in case she was being literal, we did round up the kids for an outing to Popeye's and Menchie's the day before.
*** Hopefully you already bought the TV (we had) and it better have been on sale (it was).

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