My mom turned 85 last Saturday, and I drove to Knoxville from New Orleans for a last-minute party my brothers and I put together. We’d really done it up for her 80th and told her she’d have to wait till 90 for another big celebration. But on a visit last month I decided we should do something for 85, so my brothers secured the venue and I took care of the guest list.
It was great.
We didn’t have as many guests as five years ago—partly because we only invited family this time rather than including Mom’s extensive close-friend list—but also because of the circumstances of life. My sister Holliday, my aunt Beverly, my cousin Leigh Ellen—all have died since Mom’s last birthday party. And my cousin and his partner Frank couldn’t make it because they’d traveled to San Fransisco the previous weekend—to get married. After 29 years and a four-year-old son, they finally made honest men of each other.
Mom has always been accomplished—first chair of the University of Tennessee’s Women’s Studies department, Fulbright scholar several years running, tenured professor of philosophy. But her second act—after Dad died and we were all worried because we thought Dad was her only friend—has been spectacular, rich with new friends, reconnected family, travel, art, and general living. My brother John summed it up in his toast: “I’d sign on the dotted line right now for a second act like Mom has had.”
I would too—I’m proud and envious of her. She is my template.
And her birthday parties are a blast.