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Since a couple of years and every time my Mom asks me about how old she was, she would then ask: If I reach the 100 will you throw me a party? And my answer would invariable be, : yes, one like none before. She would then ask, with a grin on her face: With a belly dances, and I would reply: definitely. She would then laugh, then sigh.
Time passed, and those two years passed and her 100th birthday came around, and thank God, she is still reasonably healthy. So, a promise, being a promise, starting a month ago, I started the arrangements for one heck of a party.
First thing I did was a list of the family and friends she knew. This done, I started calling up and issuing the invitations. The response was flatteringly positive. All were eager to come help us celebrate the occasion. The date was set, the weekend after her birthday, to accommodate her granddaughter and her family’s attendance, as they live abroad.
Then the thinking about the theme, what to do, etc started. The FUN part started. First thing was to enlist my friends, with their collective brainpower and imagination to give me ideas. Thieves ranged from the very practical and down-to-earth, to the somewhat bizarre. Some of the latter were quite a bit overboard, but still fun to contemplate on a purely theoretical basis. I cannot very well have her dropped in to the party by parachute, or have her carried in like a Cleopatra, they might drop her! But on the whole, the suggestions, when not practical, were a lot of fun to imagine.
One of the suggestions was for the theme of the party to be the dress and music of the 20’s. This was doable, till we faced the sobering reality that very few materials of what is needed to evoke that era were available, and what was available was very poor indeed. So plans had to be changed quickly and instead of the 20’s theme, we opted for just masks to be distributed, to give people a slight sense of anonymity which usually helps in melting some of the inhibitions.
A couple of good friends, who happened to be experts at such shopping took me to the area known for selling such things – which I had previously described under “Christmas Gifts” – and we bought the masks, among other things.
The most difficult aspect of the whole thing was trying to keep the part a secret from my Mom so that it would be a surprise. This, to me personally was a challenge, and a very, very amusing aspect of the situation developed. Every time I needed to talk on the phone about one part of the arrangements I would discreetly leave the room. Usually when I came back she would ask me who was that on the phone and I would say the name of one friend or another. But after a few times she started getting suspicious. Though I did not realize where her imagination was taking her. After two weeks of this state, one evening, in a very serious tone and with a very serious expression, she told me to sit down as she has something she needs to talk to me about. When I did, she came out with: Aida, you have been behaving very strangely lately, and I would like to assure you about something. If you have a boyfriend and are afraid to introduce him to me for whatever reason you think he might not be acceptable, I want to know that it is your happiness that is my prime objective and I shall not stand in your way. After my initial gasp, I simply collapsed in laughter. I think she just returned to the mode of my teenage years! This was so absurd, and yet the sentiment behind it was do loving, I was laughing and crying at the same time. Of course my very emotional response made her even more suspicious that I was nursing a broken heart and hiding it. I could have carried that role on for a while if I could have kept a straight face every time I thought of it, but that was impossible. So until the night of the party, when I had to tell her about it, she still had that sneaking suspicion, that I was nursing a broken heart and putting on a brave front for her sake. She never got rid of that idea until I explained about the party and all the sneaking around.
The day of the party arrived, and early in the morning, though the sky was a bit cloudy, the temperature was not too low. The catering people arrived and started the arrangements. The tent had been put up in the garden a couple of days before, and in an hour or so, the sun came out in all its glory. The weather turned beautiful. Then the band came in, were shown where they could change their costumes. They started setting up their instruments, tuning them, fiddling with the speakers and the volume. All in all, the gearing up for the party was at maximum and the start just a couple of hours away.
When my Mom woke up, had her shower and breakfast, was dressed in the clothes previously given to her nurse, I went to her for some slight make-up. Just a few touches so she doesn’t look washed out in the pictures. My Mom is a beautiful woman, and at 100 that was no exception. Not only did she look beautiful, a great number of my friends later described her as regal. She is a great lady.
The guests started arriving. Those who traveled from far came first, fearing a delay on the way, then the nearer ones. All this and she was still upstairs. She sent me her nurse asking impatiently about when she was going yo join the party. So I arranged for the band and the photographer to be ready, and down she came in the lift. From that point on, she was serenaded and filmed all the way through the house, out yo the terrace and down to the garden. Not only did the musicians precede her, but the dancers as well. All went on film. She got so excited, she started swinging to right and left, moving her arms up and down to the music. Seeing that, my friends gathered round and started dancing around her. It was quite an entourage of joy and fun.
She finally settled in her chair in the garden, the weather was clear, slightly crisp, but the sun was very brightly and warmly shining through. The rest of the family and friends continued arriving, and the pile of presents was getting bigger and bigger. When we finally opened them the next day we found them falling into four categories: drinks, chocolate, creamed and body lotions and finally shawls and lap blankets. So my Mom is set for the next hundred years, drinking, eating sweets, with lovely moisturizer soft skin under a variety of blankets and wearing beautiful pashminas.
The part went very well. The only point of disappointment for her was the inability for my brother to attend. But he called her around lunchtime, and that did make up for it a bit. The next part was the entrance of the two-tired birthday cake that was carried in by the catering people, though I had commissioned a friend to do it. It was perfect. She had a small statue representing my Mom and another of her dog! My Mom was tickled pink by that and was terribly worried someone might eat the dog! We sang her ‘Happy Birthday’, then toasted her with Champaign (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) then on to the buffet.
The weather held till the end, and some of the photos taken by the guests were posted on Facebook that evening. The calls from family and friends the next day were legion, the fun had by all was palpable. She is obviously a very special lady and very much-loved by all who know her. When she finally went yo bed that night, she was very happy indeed. And so was I. I had kept my promise to her, have had enormous help from my neighbors, friends and family, have felt the love surrounding us, and have documented some lovely memories. Thank you all for making such a lovely day possible, thank you, family and friends.