This post is a week late. My mom turned 75 last Friday, June 26.
I didn’t do a blog post that day.
I don’t think I wished her a happy birthday on Facebook.
For the big day, I did better than digital media.
I was with her to celebrate in person. And I wasn’t alone. We had about forty guests, a large group of family and a few close friends, who got together to mark the moment with food, photos, games, and memories.
Our family is scattered all across the US, and at this phase of life, it often takes an act of Congress to bring us all (or as many as can…it is never “all”) together. In recent years, those gatherings have often been for funerals.
But this occasion was joyful. We had multiple generations and all sorts of connections and ages…parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, near and dear. Oh, it was quite a group!
We rented a community event center for the big day, and with some combined efforts, planned, decorated, and trimmed. We put on a southern barbecue spread, complete with all the trimmings and a family favorite coconut cake. We had games, a slide show that was a walk down memory lane, a little roasting/tribute, and plenty of time to visit. We had a photographer come and make all the requisite photos of the big group as well as smaller groups of individual families, cousins, kids, etc.
We noticed that there are holes in the fabric of the family. Some are gone, and are sorely missed.
But we can still muster a hearty number, and the storytelling, the talk around my mother’s table, site of so many family gatherings over the years, warmed my heart, and reminded me of all the best of my heritage.
My roots are firmly southern, based in a small Mississippi town. The two are entwined, family and heritage.
During our visit, we checked out the small gift stores in town, always a draw. I’ve hauled many a special treasure back from Mississippi over the years.
We ate at the local food truck, and the smoked pulled pork was probably the best I’ve ever had. The owner made a photo of us and chatted while we ate. It’s just that kind of a community.
We went to a summer festival…well, maybe it was a week-early 4th of July event, I’m not sure…but there were kids playing, live music, a mix of people, ages, races, and smiles on hand to enjoy the food and fun. It was small town Americana up close and personal.
We ate catfish and fried dill pickles, my mother’s famous sweet rolls and her even more famous fried rice, caught up with family we haven’t seen in years, other than via Facebook, and I watched Riley and Jack charm the whole bunch. It was satisfying, heart-warming, and smooth from start to finish.
Thank you, Mother, for all you have meant to me and our family all these years. You’ve been part of the glue that has held us together, showed the way, carried the torch.
I’m so glad that this was a birthday I could share with you, that I’ve been so busy being present in person I am just now writing this, as I sit in the airport headed back to Alaska.
It was a charming and special trip. I’m so glad, and I’m so proud of you.