I've been trying to avoid my mom this weekend. It's not that I don't want to see her or that she's been annoying me (well, ahem, the latter may be bordering on the truth, but that's just a mom thing). It's because I organized a 60th birthday party for her and it's happening later on tonight. She thinks it's just dinner with my dad, the Dories and me, but when we get to the restaurant, fifteen of her closest friends will be waiting, hopefully geared up for a fun night thanks to the hour they'll spend with an open bar prior to our arrival.
Her best friend, my godmother, made a scrapbook of my mom's entire life. I made her a scrapbook too, but the theme is that it's from all of her kids... Dorie's kids, my three closest cousins, and me (both godchildren and goddamn children, as my mom would say). Everyone has their own page with a picture of them as a baby and a picture of them now. The best part is that everyone included something special that they did themselves... a birthday message, a funny poem, or a recreation of all of Harrison Ford's biggest movies, incorporating my mom into the plot in some way. I think it will mean a lot to her.
When I wrote my birthday message to her, I talked about how I'll never run out of Sudafed because when I had a stuffy nose years ago she bought me a lifetime supply, how when I say that I like her jewelry she takes it off and tries to give it to me, how she takes people who were once just neighbors and turns them into family, and has lifelong friends where other people just have occasional acquaintances. Everyone who meets her wants to be her friend. I've never known anyone else who cares more about the people in her life and really knows how to show it. She and I don't always see eye to eye, but I'm really excited to be able to throw her this party. She'll really appreciate it, because she's a person who is always thinking about everyone else, and this is a chance for other people to toast her. I found myself thinking that everyone the scrapbook is from is someone who didn't exist thirty years ago, and how different the second half of her life so far has been from the first half. She's lost a lot since then, but she'd tell you she's gained even more.
Last night I was at Dorie's, admittedly not the best place for taking refuge from my mom since she and my dad live across the street. Dorie and her husband were supposed to go to her college reunion, and she was psyched. I was supposed to babysit, but then her son got sick. Nothing serious, but he wasn't up for being left. It was a last minute decision to stay home and that was that. After time in a cool bath, he felt better, and spent the rest of the night lying in the family room watching the Sox play the Yankees with his dad. Dorie washed off her makeup and we sat on the porch drinking wine, enjoying the humidity as you can only do in June when it's still a novelty, her daughter playing with my hair and then standing back and saying things like, "Maybe it looks better when you do it yourself."
It seemed like a good metaphor for how life can change: You really, really want to meet up with old friends... and then a person that you made needs you, so you don't go. And it ends up being a different kind of night, but still a good night, because for better or worse you're where you want to be. You lose and you gain, sometimes in the same moment, and what you end up with at the end of the day isn't always what you expected, but maybe it ends up being exactly what you want. Not a bad theme for a milestone birthday. And also maybe, inadvertently, the lyrics to a new Jimmy Buffett song.