Monday, December 15, 2008

75 Years Young!

How do you honor such an amazing woman like my mom?! What can I possibly do to let her know how much I appreciate everything she does, did, and will do in the future? How do I say, "Happy Birthday, I'm so glad you were born and made it these 75 years"? Well, I guess I start by being me and waiting until the day before her birthday to plan anything. (In my defense, she was going to be in Forest Lakes on her actual birthday but decided on Saturday to come down to beat the storm that was headed in) Then I rely on my fallback plan... old friends that never let you down! Friends that I grew up with, my mom raised her children with, and friends that are always there for us...
Edith and LeRoy Harkins
The Harkin's household was definitely a second home to me and their daughters have all been great friends of mine at different points of my life. When I was young and not old enough to be alone, their oldest daughter Kathrine would come over and "babysit" me while my mom went out square dancing. This entailed playing games, eating junk food, and waiting until the last possible second to jump into bed and pretend like I was asleep. Their middle daughter Lacy and I were best friends in high school. We did absolutely everything together, confided in each other, and I counseled her with her boyfriend fiascoes. Eventually I was the maid-of-honor at her wedding the summer after she graduated. She moved away with him for school, but 3 years later she came back to be my maid(matron?)-of-honor. As a wedding gift, Edith made all of my bridesmaids dresses and my wedding dress. LeRoy's brother DJ'ed our reception. Back in the day, birthdays, holidays, and celebrations of any kind were not complete without the Harkins!
Me and Millie
Millie was always the little sister. The one that tagged along. The one that we could dare to eat dog food and she would. Millie was and is fun to be around. When we moved back into this house that I grew up in she was living with her parents (and 2 children) down the street, right where I remember them. I was coming home, but as a grown up. I became pregnant almost immediately and a year later I found myself a stay-at-home mom and Millie and I became the best of friends. We saw each other daily: just popping in on each other; feeding each other; sharing "war" stories of poopy diapers, nursing dilemmas, runaway children, and absentee husbands. I never would have survived a year at home without Millie!
And here I am today... raising my family in the house my mom raised me in! We're doing pretty well, don't you think mom?!
My mom always like to have popcorn strands on her Christmas tree. I can remember setting blankets out on the lawn during the day and stringing popcorn in our front lawn. The neighbors would think we were a little weird, but the Harkin's girls would always come and join in. One year my mom had taken a trip to New Mexico right before her birthday. When she arrived home, she was greeted by a house full of family and friends, popcorn bits on the floor, and plenty of strands to fill up her tree. We all sang to her and I had made a cake for her. I don't remember doing this (much of high school is a blur, simply due to an overabundance of activities), but my mom, Edith, and LeRoy all brought it up Monday night so it must have happened. The best thing of all is that the last minute invitation to come over didn't phase any of these great people in the least. That's how our families work... you are just there for each other. I called Millie on Sunday and she called her parents. Her dad told her mom, "we're going to E's tomorrow night", and she said, "oh, is it JoAnn's birthday?" It's been 11 years since we did this but she knew! She knew like it happened every year.

As the adults strung popcorn and shared memories, the kids all entertained themselves quite happily...

Kyra and Jessie preparing to perform a Christmas song for us:

Max and Tasha, being Max and Tasha:

Alyssa, the loner

To say that we had a lot of laughs this evening would be an understatement. I should post the picture of us laughing, but I have like 3 chins or something and am too vain to put it up. Once we started talking about all the silly things we did, places we went, and mishaps that occurred on our many family adventures together, there was no stopping us. Each of us would jump in with a "oh, and remember..." that was followed by an embarrassing moment or thoughtful gesture. Man when you cram 10-18 years of memories into one night you realize how crazy and delightful things really were.

I told my mom Monday morning over breakfast that I might have a surprise for her that night. When I invited Millie over she asked, "can we bring instruments too?" Of course silly woman! When we were young, we would get together with the Harkins on Christmas Eve and "sing" Christmas carols. What it really amounted to was Lacy and I on the violin and cello, Edith singing boisterously, and my mom and LeRoy mouthing the words. I always hid behind the cello in those days, I was so shy (even around family)!

I thought we were going to pass the buck to our children this year (Jessie plays the viola and Kyra plays the violin), but Millie showed up with 3 violas and a cello! What?! The girls fiddled around (haha) while we were chatting but then their moms busted in on them and joined the fun. They had sheet music for all but the violin so I got to transpose the cello part of Silent Night for Kyra and she learned most of it in about 5 minutes. Edith came back to drag us out of the bedroom and told us to practice in the living room so they could hear us. It was hard enough to get through the song together, so there was no singing on this number. Alyssa knew Jingle Bells, so we all turned to that and had a group of performers that outnumbered the audience for the first time ever! Jessie, Millie, and I started off on the "dashing through the snow bit" and then Kyra, Alyssa, and Tasha joined in on the "jingle bell" chorus. Tasha was so excited to toot that recorder (on the same note) to the beat of a song she knew! She was beaming she was so happy.

After the Christmas songs we ad libbed "Happy Birthday", everyone joined in singing, and we ate cupcakes that Tasha and I made and Kyra frosted. My mom loves traditions and a good walk down memory lane, so hopefully this birthday celebration was an OK tribute to the most wonderful mom I could ever have. I love you mom!!!


Sara said...

What a neat picture! I love all that music making.

Crystal said...

What a fun birthday party for your mom. It was great hearing about your friends too and how great they are. Tell your mom I said Happy Birthday too. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMO - you don't look a day over 45!

Jaylee Draney said...

Wow. She looks great for 75.