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Friday, September 30, 2011

Big Mar's Birthday Fest 2011 (Part One-words)
or celebrating 90 sparkling years on this blue planet

Okay, so this weekend the sibs and I threw a soiree to celebrate the life and times of the most wonderful woman we know, our Mum, Big Mar.

Friends and relatives drove from near (surrounding neighborhoods) and far (Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Georgia and Japan--okay, you can't DRIVE from Japan, but you know what I mean. Smart ass.) to help her say goodbye to her 80s. Several of them made the long journey to Pittsburgh only to turn around and drive back to their home state the same day.

Why? Because everyone LOVES my Mom. She has always been that special sort of person to whom everyone gravitates. Firm, but fair, yet never judgmental. She's an amazing listener who never betrays a confidence. She's kindhearted, warm and always welcoming. She is happy to stop what she's doing to sit down and visit with whomever knocks on her door. Like a big ole adorable puppy, she's always excited when people drop by. Her positive outlook is contagious. Her love of humankind is genuine.

She has the kind of face people feel immediately comfortable with sharing their life story. I can tell you from experience, many times we have sat my Mom down on a bench when she's needed a rest from shopping only to find her engaged in a lively conversation with a complete stranger upon our return.

There were five of us kids and even though we didn't have a lot of extra material things growing up (I always yearned for a real Barbie doll instead of that poser Dawn doll I received. Selfish beyatch), we had the security of abundant love, gentile guidance... and a well-placed hairy eyeball or two.

And the food... my GOD the food! She was and remains an AMAZING cook. In fact she still whips up her culinary magic for us every other Sunday. Dinner for five or twenty five, she's never flustered and gladly makes room for one more. We all used to bring home unexpected "strays" to the dinner table. She'd shrug her shoulder and say, "What's one more. We have enough food."

Big Mar never learned to drive so our house became the center cog for family gatherings. I have fond memories of carloads of kin folk, including our favorites from Miami, pulling into the driveway in their big-ass 1970s Buicks, off loading cases of beer, pop and the occasional bag of groceries. My Dad always freaked out that the house was too small for so many people, but my Mom was cool as the proverbial cucumber. No one seemed to mind what state the house was in as long as they had a tall, icy high ball in one hand and glowing cigarette in the other. Everyone felt at home in our house. As Big Mar is fond of saying, our house was clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be comfortable.

During these events (planned or unplanned), a cornucopia of food would pour out of the kitchen like some crazy clown car of consumable goods. We had such fun running around the sizable yard playing with a kajilion kids from our extended family while the adults hung out on the porch laughing, drinking and telling stories. When it got dark, my Dad would put up a sheet and play home movies and cartoons from an old 8 mm projector. I can still see him, head tilted slightly, right eye squinting from the curl of grey smoke rising from his unfiltered Pall Mall pinched between his lips, threading the film through the maze of sprockets...

And at the heart of all the chaos was Big Mar. Loving every minute of the mayhem. The more the merrier. She still loves the madness. She just has to take a nap occasionally now.

My Mom is one of the brightest women I have ever know. I'm not saying that just because she's my mum either. She really is. She's extremely well-read, has a memory to die for and is still a whiz at doing extensive math in her head.

In. Her. HEAD.

I can barely operate the calculator on my phone and she's adding up long strings of numbers in her 90!

Had she been born three decades later, I have no doubt she could have been a physician, judge or pretty much anything she wanted. But she was born in 1921 when there were few women in the work force. The choices were nurses, housewives or Barbies. Her fate was to be our Mom and she took on that daunting, thankless job with elegance, grace and a light heart.

And I couldn't be more grateful.

So thank you, Big Mar. Thank you for giving us a happy home filled with love and laughter, for instilling in me a moral compass, a keen sense of humor and my love of the word "shit". Oh, and thanks for breaking the wooden spoon on Buddy's ass instead of mine.

You're a beautiful old broad, aged to perfection.

What do you say we shoot for triple digits. We'll all help you blow out the inferno.

Love ya, Mumsy!!