This Is Your Party, Mom!

My grandfather’s little tax deduction for the year 1934 arrived on New Year’s Eve.  Anne Louise McFarland, my mother, grew up believing that all the fireworks and shouting every year on this day was in honor of her birthday.  I grew up believing something very similar.  My parents didn’t dress up and go out on New Year’s Eve…they dined at home on champagne and escargot and caviar and other delectable treats while listening to “The Midnight Special” on WFMT or to “Die Fledermaus” on TV or video.  When I was old enough to stay up with them, we would sometimes catch the Times Square celebration and then declare East Coast midnight and go to bed an hour early.  But the reason for the season was my mother, not the march of time.  In my late teens, I didn’t go to other people’s parties, I still stayed home…and my boyfriend (soon to be husband) joined us.  We enjoyed the best food and champagne and music and silliness and company without ever having to contend with drunk drivers on the roads.  My mom lives 2,205 miles away from me now, but I am still planning to stay home and drink champagne and eat salmon and listen to wonderful music and think of her.  She is still reason enough for all the joy and love and delight you might see tonight.  I’ll show you why:

Graduation, Radcliffe Class of 1955

Graduation, Radcliffe Class of 1955

This is my mom and dad at her college graduation.  That’s right, she graduated from Radcliffe, the female component to Harvard, at the age of 20.  The woman has brains.  With her late birthday and having skipped a year in elementary school, that means she went to college at age 16, all naive and nerdy with bad teeth and a lazy eye and glasses, but with a curiosity and charm that matured and eventually proved irresistible to my father, who, with money and pedigree and a Harvard degree, was “quite a catch”.  

Ten years later, the family

Ten years later, the family

So, by 1965, she’s a mother of 4 little girls (that’s me, the baby, blonde, aged 3), running a household, volunteering with Eastern Star and the church and a host of other things.  So stylish, so Jackie!  This was Massachusetts, you know. 

Acadia National Park, I think

Acadia National Park, I think

And she’s not afraid to go camping, either.  This was a picnic picture taken by her mother-in-law.  That would explain the handbags and the dress.  My grandmother was never seen anywhere without a handbag and make-up.  My mother was…often!

1978 in California

1978 in California

Fast forward 13 years.  My mother gave birth to a boy when she was 38She had 4 willing babysitters surrounding her and a handsome husband now sporting a beard.  She’d also picked up a Masters degree in Church Music.  We moved from Chicago to California where she became more adventurous in cuisine and hiking and music and new volunteer opportunities.  This photo was taken the last Christmas that all her children were alive.  My sister Alice (far left) died the next August.

1985 - Proud grandparents

1985 – Proud grandparents

A month after she’d turned 50, my mother became a grandmother for the first time.  She’d also survived breast cancer by electing to have major surgery, something her own mother had done 10 years earlier.  She was housing and caring for her barely mobile mother and raising a pre-teen son at this time as well.  Do you see a grey hair?  No?  Neither do I.  My mother is amazing.

1989b

Christmas and New Year's 1989

Christmas and New Year’s 1989

Mom turns 55.   She has 4 grandchildren, a 16-yr old son, and her mother has just died.  She’s volunteering as a docent at the San Jose Historical Museum, a position she will hold for more than 20 years, specializing in their music department. 

Summer 1994 - babysitting the grandkids

Summer 1994 – babysitting the grandkids

Here, she’s 60.  My husband and I are traveling in Europe for our 10th anniversary, and she and Dad take our kids to the beach cottage for a few weeks.  My husband survived double bypass surgery on his heart two years earlier.  Yeah, Mom came out then, too, to take care of the kids…and me.  Who has the energy to be with 4 kids (aged 3, 5, 7, & 9) at the beach for two weeks at the age of 30, let alone twice that?  My mother.  Although she did let me know (graciously) that it wasn’t easy. 

13 years later, back at the beach

13 years later, back at the beach

In 2007, Mom came out with my sister and brother to see my daughter graduate from college.  We all went to the cottage together again.  This was my husband’s last trip: he died the following February.  My father is not with us on this vacation.  He is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition he had for 7 years before his death.  My mother visited him several times a week while he needed skilled care and played the piano for all the residents, jogging memories with old popular tunes and supporting the hymns during chapel services.

March 2010 - photo credit DKK

March 2010 – photo credit DKK

My father died in March of 2010.  I had been widowed for 2 years.  My kids and I flew back to California for his memorial service, and Dad’s ashes were buried next to my sister’s and my husband’s.  My mother invited the family back to her house and we gathered around the piano again.  She played and sang and laughed and cried, and I did, too, right by her side.  My mother and I are alike in many ways, and I am so glad, proud and grateful to be a woman like her.  I see her smile, I hear her voice, I taste her cooking and her tears, and feel her spirit flowing around and through me all the time.  We’re going to party tonight, Mom.  Miles be damned!  Happy Birthday!  I love you!

 

 

19 thoughts on “This Is Your Party, Mom!

  1. I really enjoyed reading this story–what a great tribute to a really interesting woman! I will be thinking of you both tonight, Scilla. Best wishes for the New Year to you and your mom!

  2. We had planned a Hobbit party, but it is come at your own risk. A guest came to our Christmas Eve dinner with a sore throat and wicked cough, and by the end of the next day, we had all caught it too. I have warned off most of my guests, but my daughter’s friends are undaunted, and determined to don their pointy ears and hairy feet and stopping by for games and a tankard of Boston Cooler at midnight! I will be sure to snap a photo or two!

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your mother with such wonderful photos! I enjoyed them all but the 1989 photo of your parents together on the couch is my favorite…it is stunning how so much love is captured in one photograph. Wow.
    Happy Birthday to Mom & Happy New Year to you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s