|Susan and I arrived on Wednesday morning along with the rain which lasted for two days. We had the "lying" network working. Neice Julie had called her regrets into Grandmother the day before, and 30 minutes before picking us up at the Tri Cities Airport near Kingsport, Tennessee, she called her grandmother to tell her that she was in a meeting in Atlanta. Cousin Kay had picked mom up for a lunch out. With James Bond clandestine-like phone calls we managed to get the signal as to which restaurant to launch the surprise #1. Cousin Kay met Susan, Julie and me on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. We walked in behind Cuz Kay, who leaned over to whisper to mom that she had run into three women on the sidewalk who wanted to join them for lunch, if that was OK. Mom said that would be fine, then she looked up to see who it was, and thus began the many surprises for the next few days for my mom, as she celebrated her 90th birthday in grand style.|
The Blues Sisters, as we jokingly call them since they ride around in Helen's big white Cadillac and wear very large sunglasses to protect their macular degeneration affected eyes from old Mr. Sun. Mom's is much more serious than the still driving 86 year old Aunt Helen's but they get around quite well. They are preparing for a family get-to-gather at the cabin Niece Julie had found to house my brother and his entire family which had arrived, Birthday surprise #2, about 9pm Wednesday evening. My brother lives in Washington State and has 5 children, so getting that crowd of varied career's, schools, and pregnancies coordinated to come was a miracle in itself. But arrive they did, bringing my mom's youngest great grandchild, and the next in line due in February, along.
It is nice to have a resident, recently retired hair dresser in the household to pretty you up before you leave the house each day.
|The place Julie found was about 15 minutes from my mom's home and was the carriage house just behind this grand old house, which I have seen and wondered about for many years as we passed in on our many trips to town when I was growing up. Mom had always talked about this house and how her father had been inside it when it was being built and marveled at all the different sets of stairs. It has now been bought by a couple who operate it as a Christian youth camp with the kids barracks in the barn area and additional space in the carriage house for smaller retreats. The family resides in the house. It had a beautiful view once the rain finally stopped so we could see it. This year's trip was too busy to search for the Fall color I always long to see, and which we were a bit too early for anyway.|
|Ramsey was figuring out homework with math problems, which looked like rows of a foreign language to me. Brian was working on some sort of problem with research he does with his school and work. Dan, who teaches computer courses at college level, was assisting little brother with the math problems. Little did Mom know what Julie was plotting and putting together on her computer. Helen has always been our family photographer. She still is. I have usurped her a bit though. The building had lots of room for the whole family to hang out with beds for 15 people, lots of couches, seating, and with surrounding, (manicured by cows and horses) grounds offering paths for taking long walks.|
|Helen had brought the old "Martin" Guitar which has not been played much since she bought it. It was a gift to my dad who always said he wished he had a Martin Guitar. He had already had some brain damage from a fall and was never able to play it but his son, my bro, Mike played on it a bit as did Tyler, (on the left) who actually sings, writes songs, and plays the guitar in his own band out in Anacortes, Washington where most of Mike's family lives.|
|Mom's actual birthday!!!! It was on Thursday and turning 90 is a big deal. She was sure this was it and was happy with her surprise visitors. This was not a surprise as we were pretending that this was "THE" birthday celebration for her...Little did she know....|
|We played it to the hilt posing for the family photos and even birthday cake. Next day was to be a cloak and dagger type of day with people slipping away never to be seen again until evening. Susan said she had some errands to run with Julie. Two of Julies closest friends Steven and Jonathan had driven in that morning sight unseen, and they were to assist Susan in finding and delivering some big surprises of their own. A new stove was being bought and set up in her kitchen while the birthday girl was away. My mom's biggest interest in life besides worrying about her kids is cooking.|
|That Friday, dressed for the day, (there was no other choice because we couldn't let her go home again), we headed to the cabin to hang out and enjoy the family, well sort of, -well, some of us anyway. Julie and Susan had already disappeared, but I went to the cabin with mom. More of the cloak and dagger stuff ensued as Julie slipped in the back door to get the computer and sound equipment, I sneaked out with her and left to go help decorate for the big party ahead later in the evening. Under the tutelage of Niece Nicki, who is an expert at throwing a party, we decorated the room with balloons and all kinds of glittery stuff from the tables to the ceiling. My son, Eric, and his family stopped by to help. Julie had printed scads of family photos which she had been collecting from us all, and by going through all the old albums for months were hung all around the room on a makeshift clothesline. We were ready for the biggest surprise of all. This one was a humdinger. THE Party, people who she would have no idea she would see, grandchildren, and great grandchildren she had no idea were anywhere around, food for a hundred people and much, much more.|
|About 6pm the crowd started to flow into "The Firehall" which is like the town's community center. Her Church friends, a couple of her old pastors, cousins from both sides of the family, even had two of our ex's in attendance, all assembled for the surprise. The other cousins, (grandchildren) had quietly slipped into town. The rest of Susan's children and mine were all there.|
|My Aunt's part of the scheme was to suggest they take Mike and his family to the Fire Hall to eat barbeque that night. That is something the fire hall does often as a fund raiser, so not something Mom suspected. After all, she thought her celebration was ended, since her birthday was the day before. Not until she walked through the door did she think anything else. She even commented as they loaded up to come that she "guessed she would have to come to Jacksonville to see Susan and me", since we had been gone "aaaall day".|
|Mom spent a lot of the night crying as she welcomed all the rest of the children, great grand children, daughters-in-law, and all her friends and relatives who came to pay tribute to a much loved lady.|
|Since Helen's birthday was the week before we could not go without having a birthday cake for her also.|
|Her only living brother came from Cincinnati to see her. Since my mom's mother had died when she was 16 she had practically raised her younger brothers, the youngest which had been only 6. My mom's life was not an easy one, being a child of the depression, and living so far back in the woods that it was very difficult to have any kind of social life for a young girl except at church. That meant walking about 3 miles which wasn't so bad if you had some young man to walk you home. She was and is an exceptional lady. The grand lady of our family much loved by all her children, friends and family. Life has never been easy for her as daddy did not leave her with much of a safety net. She has lived on her social security check for all these years, growing her garden and canning for the winter months to follow. Still does it and I believe that pioneer spirit and never stopping is why she is in such good health now.|
|Eric, my oldest son had gotten Dolly Parton to autograph a photo of herself and it said ",Happy 90th Birthday, Love Dolly Parton". It was a thrill for mom who has been a long-time Dolly fan.|
|The evening began to wind down, but not before Julie presented her wonderful video of my Mom's and our families' lives, which she had been working on for many months. It was beautiful and of course we all cried through that one. The balloon queen, Reagan, next in line great grandchild, began to collect all the balloons as cleanup of the room began and the family had a little time to take photos and enjoy each other although we were all pretty exhausted. Reagan was sad the next morning when she announced "my balloons flated last night". Opposite of inflated of course.|
|The Party Girl was pooped, so time for Cinderella to get her chariot and head home. Steven, Jonathan and Susan had one more surprise up their sleeves. They had worked all day to pull this one off under Julie's direction.|
|Since we have never had this much family together it was mandatory that we record it for posterity's sake. On arriving home the first thing Mom saw was her new stove. The "end" of the surprises and the end of having to tell all those fibs, which can be exhausting in itself. Helen went back into the kitchen later and started singing Happy Birthday but Mom stopped her saying "I don't want to hear that anymore" and when Helen started to hang the Happy Birthday sign up Mom quickly said, "and I don't want to see that either". I think she was just plain tired at that point and "birthdayed up".|
|With all our cards on the table now it was time to plan a big family breakfast on Saturday morning before the family started to drift away to their other commitments in life. For a while we were joined together as family again. We missed our two cousins Jeff & Jeremy who had been up a couple of weeks before and missed my brother who had no choice but to be in Nashville working a job he had been called to do. It was a great family get-to-gather like none other we have ever had.|
|My son David had made it with his wife so my whole family was together under one roof, except for Bruce, which is something I don't ever get to enjoy anymore.|
|I think we counted that we had 28 people for breakfast. A joint effort and for once Mom got to have biscuits and gravy that she didn't cook. We kept her out of the kitchen that morning.|
As we all sat around chatting, the State of Tennessee sent its state bird, the Mockingbird to sing a beautiful and loud song as a special gift to us all. Time to catch the big silver bird back home. What a wonderful event it was. Julie, you are the most wonderful niece anyone could ever have. Without you pushing us, it would have never happened.
I don't even want to see another James Bond movie for a while. I have had all the secrets and mystery I want for a long, long time.