What Will Each Year Bring- Wow #7

“I can’t wait ‘til I’m a grown up because…” says four-year-old Bryce. He has already began making plans and dreaming about his future. We talk about his thoughts on a career—“Being Dad’s work friend” and “Helping Mommy hold her camera.” He tells me that he wants to be an adult, because “I am excited to be a dad.” He has told me that he is not interested in drinking wine now, but when he is a grown-up, milk will no longer be his preferred beverage.

When you are young, there are so many milestones to look forward to, such as getting a driver’s license, being able to vote, drinking legally, and becoming independent. Each birthday is eagerly awaited.

At what point does that excitement turn to antipathy? For me, it was each new decade beginning at forty, when I truly knew I was no longer a kid. I watched my parents age, and with each passing birthday, new wrinkles appeared, trips to the doctors increased, and their memories deteriorated.

Grandpa’s travels became primarily limited to walking from the living room window to observe the neighborhood activities, to shuffling into the kitchen for a cup of coffee or his afternoon glass of wine. Grandma now spends most of the day in her recliner, with the television tuned to whichever station was last turned on by one of the nursing home aides or a visitor.

If this is my future, it saddens me. However, my gloom turns to hope when I dine with our new friend, a ninety-four year old gentleman with a perpetual smile on his face. He greets me by name and with a hug, and we have animated discussions about our lives—mostly his because he is so fascinating—and he tells me about his travels. He has seen the world—China, Thailand, Alaska, Germany, and Ireland. He does not look just backward on his life, but happily anticipates his future trips.

At this moment, he is on an adventure in New Zealand and hopes to visit the Galapagos Islands or Ireland in his ninety-fifth year. I asked if his family is uneasy with his solo travels, and he admitted that they are. He dismissed their worries telling me, “If something happens to me while I am away, what’s wrong with that? I have lived a long life, and I am happy now. I am doing what I want.”

What a great attitude, and what an admirable and memorable man! He is my hero! If I can still be physically and mentally fit enough to still travel and socialize thirty years from now, then birthdays will become a day of pride.

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Hello World

I considered ignoring this day because it’s just not the same once you are no longer a kid. No longer do I look forward to the pool parties in my back yard or playing pin-the-tale on the donkey or bingo for nickels with my school friends. No longer do I have milestone birthdays to look forward to such as my seventeenth, when I could get my driver’s license, or my eighteenth, when I could vote, and back then, legally drink. Now the years are just reminders of my mortality.

There is a movie—City Slickers—which came out in 1991. In the opening scene, Billy Crystal is lying in bed when he is awoken by a telephone call from his mother. He is expecting this call because it’s his birthday, and every year, Mom calls Mitch to relive the day he was born.

I laughed when I saw this, understanding exactly how his character felt, because every year, Grandma would call me on my birthday to discuss the day she gave birth to me.

Grandma: “It’s June 16th. I remember the day well. I was in my bed in the hospital when an orderly walked in with a tray of food for me. It was dinner—a nice steak dinner. I looked at it and told him to take it away. Without hesitating, your father, who did not have a shy bone in his body, looked at the tray and said without hesitating, ‘I’ll take it,’ and proceeded to eat my entire meal. I was not happy…. You were born much later that night. One hour more and it would have been the 17th.”

Baby me and Great Aunt Mary. This is the earliest photo I have of me.

Labor and delivery sure have changed a lot since I was born. Steak dinners would never, ever be allowed today. I think the medical world would laugh at the thought.

When Kelly and Jamie were born, I was permitted to eat nothing except ice chips. (I was allowed to sprinkle lemon juice on top for flavor.) The good news was that there were no restrictions regarding the amount.

By the time Casey came alone, pre-delivery rules had relaxed a bit, so I was allowed to have juice, Jello, and bouillon. Clearly not a steak dinner but still, so much better than only those stinking ice chips.

Now, based upon Kelly’s experiences thirty years later, the rules are back to ice chips. History repeats, but not like during those good old days when I screamed my way into the world while my dad enjoyed a nice steak dinner.

And here is the world the day I was born:

P. S. I am okay with the aging process. Not thrilled, but okay. I will thoroughly enjoy the milestones of my children and grandchildren and hope to share lots of them with them all. 

That’s My Girl!

Now that we have children in the family again, I am back in the cake-making saddle again. I was reminded with the first birthday of my first grandchild that a one-year old has little interest in the cake, whereas by two, there is a lot of opinions involved. (It had to be a Thomas the Train cake the second time around.)

My first cake for a little boy was quite amusing as you all recall. We ever so carefully placed it on his high chair tray, and then waited for the reaction. He took one look at it, burst into tears, and pushed it away. You would have thought I baked him a brussel sprout-infested cake.

“Hey,” I thought, “I worked hard on your personalized blue cake with the green number one in the center!” (Coincidentally, green is now his favorite color.) I don’t recall any of you reacting like that. I think you all rather enjoyed your first cake.

With another one-year old in the family, I was prepared this time. I wondered if my little granddaughter would react in horror just like her big brother.

This time, her personalized cake was all girl—with pink frosting with gold dots. The cake was placed on her tray, and I waited for the reaction. I saw a smile, and I immediately thought “Girls really are different than boys! She knows how to butter me up already.”

She had a grand old time poking her fingers in the icing, stabbing it with a fork, shoving some of the sweetness in her mouth, and throwing much of it to the floor. The point is, she truly enjoyed my cake. That’s my girl!

img_2090          img_2101

I look forward to taking her out for a tea party as soon as possible.

Can Grandma Jean Come?

Each day, I wonder what I will write to you next. Today, I decided to write a few birthday memories. I was going to discuss a few of your more awesome parties, but then I had a conversation with Bryce over lunch today. I first asked him what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday and he told me he wanted a cake with cars. That is easy. Then we moved onto the party. “Who is coming,” I asked him next, and he proceeded to mention the names of some friends, then “Mommy, Daddy, Gigi, Pops, Bampa, Grandma.” Then he stopped and said, “Grandma Jean. Can Grandma Jean come?”

I tried to explain that she lives far away and he said again, “Can Grandma Jean come?” When I said she wasn’t feeling well, he was satisfied with that explanation. Yet that simple request evoked so many emotions in me. I felt sad knowing Grandma would never be able to come to his house for any birthday, but at the same time, I was happy and so touched that he wanted her at his party. He has spent so little time with her, yet he had felt a connection. When I brought him home, I told Kelly to ask him who he wanted to come to his party, and he said it again–“Grandma Jean.”

He first met her when we flew up when he was just four months old and then again twice the following year for Jamie’s shower and wedding. Most recently we drove up last fall, and he spent time with her at the nursing home and Uncle Mart’s house. Each time, the interactions between the two of them has been limited. Grandma is quiet now while Bryce revels in lots of activity. I figured he would remember playing with Jamie’s cat, or running in the yard with Uncle Paul or going down the slide with Jamie at the park, but it was Grandma he mentioned ahead of any of them.

I worry about my relationships with any children that Jamie and Casey may one day have, so this made me feel better. Out of sight does not necessarily mean out of mind. I want him to remember my mom—his great grandmother. Maybe he will. This is another reason I am writing these stories.

Grandma Jean and Bryce- October 2015

    Grandma Jean and Bryce- October 2015

Will History Repeat Itself?

The tree is decorated and the presents are wrapped. The few cards I will send this year left my house this week, but the cookies are not baked yet. I am not as organized as I was the year Kelly was born. But on this day–the eve of her birthday–as I sit at my computer, I cannot help but think how this year’s Christmas is similar to that year.

You were late in coming, Kelly, but just five days before Christmas, I was still expecting to be entertaining my family. Did I think I would still be pregnant, or did I even consider that I could be in the hospital, missing my own party?

Fortunately for Grandma and Grandpa, who traveled over the Hudson River and through the woods to accompany us to dinner, the weather was clear and the temperatures above freezing. Just today, you and I discussed the meal I ordered that night: soup, salad, baked ziti with meatballs and sausage, a white wine spritzer, and cheesecake. The waitress at Lucy’s Restaurant told us the story of the woman who had gone into labor just two hours after eating there two weeks ago. We laughed, but then sent Grandma and Grandpa home. At 10 pm, my water broke and we were on our way to the hospital. The waitress knew!

I am not certain exactly when they returned to sit and wait for your arrival, but like the birth of your first child, it was a very long time. The three of them (Grandma Rita joined them) did not have the toys like we all did—smart phones or IPads—so I don’t know what they did to pass the time.

I was lucky I had so much to eat, but after you were born that next night (9:29 pm), Grandpa went out in the rain and banged on the door of McDonald’s to get me some food. We were all home by Christmas Eve, and the house, mailbox, and trees were decorated with balloons and crepe paper by our friends, Jan and Tony.

You were up every hour during your first night home, but that did not stop the Christmas party. Everyone took turns passing you around like a hot potato, and the champagne was flowing, particularly with Dad, who was just so excited that day.

So this year, we are waiting the birth of your baby. While she is not expected for two more weeks, and we prepare to celebrate your birthday one day early today, I wonder if we will get a call tonight after we leave the restaurant, telling us the time has come. Will you be reading this tomorrow in your home, or will you already be in the hospital? Will this baby be just a bit early so you can celebrate Christmas 2015 with two children, or will she be late? 2015 or 2016? I can’t wait to meet her.

Happy Birthday!

Kelly footprints                First Christmas- Kelly

 

It’s Your Birthday Today!

Today is Casey’s birthday, so I am taking the opportunity to look back on some of my memories of her. Many are from the birthday letter I wrote on her twentieth birthday.

Casey, you were supposed to be my second December baby, but you were in such a hurry to be born, that you are forever stuck with the yellow Topaz rather than the blue or purple birthstone like Kelly.  But this is actually better, because that makes you more unique.  Scorpios are “determined and forceful”, and that definitely fits you.

As a baby and little girl, you were determined to do things your own way.  You never saw sleep’s real purpose, so you loved waking up in the middle of the night and early in the morning.  You have heard over and over how you tortured me by your dawn awakenings and love of early morning viewings of “Mousercise”.  Perhaps that is why we called you Dawn for a while. You didn’t like naps either.  I guess you were afraid of missing life.  So when you have those nights where you just can’t sleep, think of it as a remnant of your childhood.

It is sweet knowing that your first smile was to Aunt Marian—your great aunt and a favorite to all her nieces and nephews.

You had a great vocabulary and imagination, telling us when you were just three that you learned your big words from your invisible friend Ariel Katie. After Jamie told you a particularly long-winded story about swimming, you turned to her and said, “You’re too complicated with all these details!” You were excited about going to the dentist, but then said the day before, “I’m apprehensive, Mommy.”

You loved playing dress up, pretending to be Ariel, Dorothy Gale, and princesses. Bryce has never done this yet. Perhaps it’s a girl thing and “Jane Doe” will drive Mark crazy by doing this also.

It was both funny and frustrating to hear four-year-old you complain that your preschool was spending too much time playing rather than working. You needed to lighten up. I spent a lot of time trying, and then failing, to find a school that valued work over play to your satisfaction.  I think that was when I learned about the existence of loopholes.

We fought unsuccessfully to try to enroll you in public school before you were five, and then the principal, Mr. Goldberg, told us about the kindergarten loophole.  After many phone calls and searches, we enrolled you in a private kindergarten for a few months. After Christmas, you were finally able to join Kelly and Jamie at the bus stop for the ride to Valley View.  It really is true that you woke up singing on your first day there.  During a time when so many parents were electing to hold their children back a year in school, Daddy and I chose the rebel approach which was to accelerate you.

I hope the decision to listen to a young Casey and enroll you in school early was correct.  Think how different your life would have been if you had been among the oldest in your class instead of one of the youngest. Would you still have joined the Forensics Team when we moved to Chapel Hill?  If you had not, would you have still have the same major and minor—public relations and speech?

All of your friends would have been completely different. You met Chris in your dorm freshman year. Would you still have met him, and if not, would you still be living in the DC area now?  It is interesting to consider how the insistent requests of a four year old affected the rest of your life

I always loved your passion and enthusiasm for life but worry that adult responsibilities will make that disappear. I hope not. Scorpios are also supposed to be “powerful and passionate” so try not to lose that passion. I look forward to see where your road in life takes you.  I will be watching you.  Happy Birthday, Casey!

Casey Birthday Cake