You don’t know this (yet), but I’ve been writing this for months. Years, even. It’s taken me a long time to put into words something worthy of celebrating someone who’s been not just my best friend & North Star, but that to so many others.
The second I hit ‘publish’ on this letter & set it free into the great, untamed wilds of the interwebs, there will be a knock at your door. The knock will be significant for two reasons.
The first reason being the most obvious… no one ever comes all the way up the hill unannounced & then knocks at the front door (and, can I say here in a public forum, just how amazing your new front door looks?) They just don’t. Ever.
Mostly we all just rock through to the pool & then into the house as if it’s our own. Because, well, you’ve always made it feel like it is. Rob & I have only ever known your home as our home… so, ya know, knocking at the front door?
Secondly, the knock will be significant in that the people on the other side of the door are the only two humans you grew from nothingness to the adults that stand in front of you.
Rob & I have arrived to surprise you. Please don’t fall over or pass out (if you don’t do either of these things though, I’ll know that Dad spilled the beans about the trip!)
We’re here to celebrate you. To thank you. And, to shower you with love. In this moment of surprise, if you feel even 1/1000th of the happiness you bring us (& have done for 36yrs), then our deception in surprising you will be worth every mile, minute, & fabulously silly turn we’ve taken to get to you. On this, remind me to tell you about Javier, the Amtrak dude in business class on the Surfliner I took yesterday. YOU. WILL. HOWL!
I could write a novel about you. And, if you ever want me to, I’m happy to. I’d love to write about your childhood. Your adventures growing up as a country mouse & moving to a big city (ahem, shall we mention the abalone sandwich & guacamole debacles?)
I’d also love to share with the world stories about the kindness you exude. The strength that seeps into every ounce of your being. And the way your eyes dance when you giggle. Because, let me tell you, depending on how much red wine you’ve had – they ChaCha, they Rumba, they Two-Step, & they waltz like a ballroom dancing competition on uppers.
But at the expense of time & novel writing, I thought I’d share ten things that make you the most amazing human I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known.
Also, a bonus, not only are you the best human, YOU ARE MY MOM!
HOW LUCKY AM I???
Right, so in no particular order, here’s how I celebrate you, Momma. On your birthday. Today & every day, here are just a few of the things that cause me to adore, look-up to, & to love you without bounds.
Happy birthday, Momma.
- You Have The Patience of a Saint
No really, you do. I don’t know how you raised two kids who were 16 months apart, held down a 50+ hour-a-week job, did all of the traditional female roles in the household, volunteered your time to the community… AND DID NOT KILL A DAMN ONE OF US. Lord knows there were times when ringing our necks would’ve been completely permissible in a court of law. Remember that time I tried to get away with driving up to LA to go to the waterpark & then threw the WHOPPER OF ALL WHOPPER tantrums when you caught me out? Yeah. I remember you looking on in shock & a little bit of hilarity. You actually could’ve reacted with something akin to homicide. And, you could’ve walked away scott free. But you stuck around. And, you kept a calm & cool head along the way. I always like to say that my base personality is more like Dad – a bit fiery, very silly, & reactive. But you, with your calm head & lessons that could be scripted into a Holy book or carved into stone helped to temper me. To teach me more about playing the finite game in life. To enjoy each moment we’re given. Thank GOD or whatever that higher power is out there for you.
- But, You Also Have a Nolan Ryan Arm & Aren’t Afraid To Use It When The Right Moment Presents Itself
While you may have been as saintly as any Saint most of the time, you could also be naughty as the devil. No flies on my Momma, nope. No sir. No way. You were & are a woman of strength & conviction. You spoke up, spoke out, & put your neck (& I imagine ass) on the line to fight for better. To do better. Your throwing arm was also a thing to behold, especially if Rob or I were being bullied or treated unfairly. One of my most vivid memories of childhood took place in the stands at the high school gym. Rob was playing in a late Friday night game (we girls had just finished our game with a win!) & it was a battle on the court to be sure. At one point in the third quarter, a senior on the opposition threw an elbow right into Rob’s freshman face. Rob went down fast. The next thing I know all I can hear is Dad’s voice yelling “No Jennifer! No! Don’t do it!” to which I turned around & saw you – crazy eyed & hellbent on making it to the violent offender – with one of your 6 inch heels above your head. Lock, set, THROW! Thankfully Dad caught your arm just as you were about to bazooka this 18yr old asshole into the year 2099 with a $1000 high-heel. As all this was unfolding, Rob got up (black eyed) & played on. The-elbow-throwing senior on the other team saw you & ran off of the court cowering. And I sat there, beaming. MY MOM IS A MUTHAFUNKIN BADASS WOMAN Y’ALL. Just try something, and a black suede Balenciaga will be your dinner if you do.
- You Cook, Oh Can you Cook!
Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub…yaaaaaaaaaay, Mom! Right, let’s talk about Betty Crocker Homemaker of the year. Mom, you can cook. There’s a reason every main memory of my life is associated with some kind of yumminess. It’s because you always made sure we ate. And boy did we ever! Remember my obsession with pork chops? And spinach souffle? And croutons? And, no. Not all of them at the same time, folks, sheesh. You always made sure that we had plenty to eat. And, you helped us learn how to set a proper table and to present meals in a beautifully artistic way. Food literally has to look good enough to eat, right? You sure taught us about the art of presentation when it came to cuisine. That skill in itself has helped me so many times to pretend I’m a real adult when I was completely out of my comfort zone. Putting on a good dinner party is a magical fast-forward step into being seen as an adult. 21yr old me thanks you!
- You’re The Most Heliotropic (Kind) Leader I’ve Ever Known
Everything you do is kind. You smile at everyone, talk to everyone (EVERYONE). You make other people feel heard, worthy, & important. Watching you as a small child treat people equally, regardless of social stature or title was magic. That said, it was watching you as a leader at work when I was young that helped to be the leader & the human that I am today. One who puts kindness, empathy, understanding, gratitude & forgiveness ahead of office politics & ego. So many people live life professionally spinning in a giant wheel. They go round & round & round in a never-ending rat-race that might (or might not, for most) eventuate in a big title & some cash in the bank. And for what? A fast-track to the graveyard where you can’t take your fancy title or Roller with you when you go? Gawd, I am so thankful that you taught us about what’s real & really important in life. Getting to know people, working as a team, moving towards a common goal, & allowing others to be just as flawed & imperfect as we are. I still don’t understand folks who are in positions of leadership who don’t know how to connect with others. Laughter is so important. Trust is necessary at all junctures. No successful business was ever built upon the broken backs of others. Instead it’s common experiences, shared struggle, & individuals following their passions that make success long-lasting & impactful. Thank you for teaching me this. Thank you for embodying this.
- You Make People Feel Smart, Empowered, & Loved
No matter where you are or who you’re with, you make people feel pretty damn good about themselves at all times. As a kid I thought all Moms were like you. Sensible, funny, & ready to talk the ear off of anyone who was up for a conversation. As a grown up, I realise that you’re special. Grown ups, for the most part, are weird & can be super antisocial. So, having you as my mentor & teacher throughout life has meant that I love connecting with people. Hearing their stories. Laughing. I can’t even begin to count up how many people have told me & how many times I’ve heard stories of your generosity of spirit. I get pulled aside at parties, events, & in the company of long-time family friends to be told just how special you are. And, let’s just put it out there, the more red wine people drink, the more hilarious stories are that come out about you & the adventures you’ve taken people on over time. Adventures that these folks hold tight to as some of the best times of their lives. I won’t mention the New Orleans story, this is a G rated blog, but let’s just say that you’re definitely something & someone to live up to! If I could ever embody even an iota of the way you make feel others feel, my life would be worthwhile as heck. A mixture of self awareness & true giving of energy & spirit, Momma you’re truly a legend.
- Your Missouri Shines Through Often
You’ve been in California for a long time now, but you really can’t take the Missouri out of the girl, can ya? One thing I love about you is how you’re able to take all of the pieces of yourself & put them together to form a worldly, intelligent woman with a bit of twang running through everything you say & do. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think Rob or I (or our kids) would know how to use colloquialisms such as “Well I’ll be damned.” or “God love ’em.” in context so perfect that – no matter where we are in the world – we’re understood. There’s something about following our adventuresome spirits towards wide open spaces on the road to Hannibal that makes my entire self smile. Just grab a rental car in Kansas City, hit up the Sonic for a pork tenderloin & Mr Pibb, put a Wynonna Judd cassette in the tape player – & cruise into good times on the way to the farm. California is cool, but it’s the Missouri in you that I love the most.
- You Taught Me To Collect Memories & Moments, Not Things
I’ll never forget your battle cry when heading into adventures: “Have toothbrush (& a clean pair of undies), will travel!” Like Wonder Woman without the booty-baring costume & sans cape, you’re always up for having fun. Whether we’re driving, flying, on a boat, plane, or train… you’ve aways been my #1 person for adventures. From the time we were really small, I can remember you telling Rob & I that it was memories that we were paying for when we went places. We didn’t need things (though, let’s just take a moment to stop & pay tribute to cheap souvenirs in tacky touristy shops abroad), we just needed each other. The best investment ever made is in experiences & experiencing life with others. And, it might be a trip to the beach or a trip to the Alps, either way, you always taught me to have a glass of wine, a bite of the cake, & to take in the moment. Enjoy each adventure, no matter how small. Here’s to the next one!
- You Are One Helluva Grandma JJ
Now, I’ve always known how fab you are as a Mom. But it wasn’t until our little Pootie girl was born that I saw your true silliness & depth shine through. From the moment she was born, I understood the magic of grandparenthood in a way that only a someone who has become parent themselves could. Just as Grandma Roma was my hero from the moment I took my first breath – you are my daughter’s hero. There’s no question about that. You’re her soulmate. You’re her everything. And OHMYGAWD I thought I was spoiled growing up, my kid has the world (& Grandma JJ) at her fingertips. Watching you two together reminds me that magic still exists. And, seeing you now with Rob’s girls is such a joy & a pleasure. How the heck are you good at ALL THE THINGS? I’m not sure how you find the recipes for & then mix your potions of kindness & generosity, but I’m glad that you do.
- You Enjoy A Nice (or slightly mediocre) Glass of Wine
Let’s talk wine, shall we? For a woman of the world, you’ve always had quite the palate for a lovely (or not so lovely) drop. When I think about you, I often think back to our European whirls together, & all of the times you’d order a 1/2 ‘giraffe’ of vino di tavolo at the local Italian & end up giggling until one of us was in tears. I love that you’re just as nonplussed drinking a $1000 bottle of wine as you are excited to drink a Two-Buck-Chuck as long as the company is right & the conversation is flowing. Ice cubes in red wine? Why the heck not! Warm white? Sure thing, if the mood is right! As with everything in life, you’re in it for the right reasons. To enjoy, to share, to make memories of occasions. Wine snobbery? Nah, not my Momma. She’s happy to be at the table with people she loves. Everything else is a bonus.
- You’re 70! Holy Shit, You Made It!
MOM! YOU’RE SEVENTY! Remember when turning seventy seemed old? I guess in 2018 seventy is the new forty – or something like that. Because, when we’re honest, you have the outlook of a Gen Z, the technological nous of my millennial compatriots, & the experience of a Boomer. So, the last thing anyone could ever call you would be old. In fact, sometimes I think you’re younger than me. I mean, to quality that statement would be simple, right? I’m abed by 9pm, you’re up into the wee hours. You’re the first one to jump off of a mountainside (albeit, strapped to a handsome young man with a glider), the first to do most things. And, with time, you seem to be getting more & more adventurous. Thank you for the million trips you’ve made from California to New Zealand to help us parent our best girl, for the late night phone calls, for the FaceTime sessions that start in tears & end in laughter. You’re everything I hope I grow up to be & then some.
Happy 70th Birthday, Mom. We love you.
You make this stuff look good! Now let’s go get donuts, drink wine, & dance on tables.