*Warning, because this post has direct quotes from my mother, there ARE some curse words.
This Christmas I decided to accept my fate and embrace the inevitability of becoming my mother.
"Life is too fucking uncertain. And it's really friggin' hard a lot of the time. We have to make a point to enjoy the hell out of the good days while we have them." Yep. My mother said that to me. Has said a variation on that theme to me repeatedly for the past decade. Yep. She's elderly. She's a retiree. She's a doting grandmother. This is what the rock-n-roll generation has become. Isn't it awesome? Okay, it's a bit horrifying. Mostly, though, it's awesome. And there is no arguing with her wisdom.
My mother is brilliantly smart. She's exceedingly generous. She's fun and outgoing. And she has a wonderful--if completely inappropriate--sense of humor. She loves rock-n-roll, and reading classic mystery novels. She loves cooking, dining, and theater. She's a great travel companion, even though she admits to a TERRIBLE sense of direction. She has a sharp tongue you don't want to be on the wrong side of, and she can be a stubborn cuss. Best of all, she knows how to celebrate BIG.
See, about ten years ago there was a string of family funerals. The Ancients were passing away. An era was coming to an end. It happens to every family, as the generations age, and the next generation takes the helm of the clan. After the third or fourth wake in as many months, my mother looked at her favorite cousin and said, "We have to stop meeting in these lines." It was decided, right there in that funeral home that my Mama would organize a party for the whole clan for "sometime around the holidays." My mother booked a community hall and sent out Save-the-Date cards to a holiday "As Seen on TV-themed Yankee Swap."
That autumn was a really difficult one in our family, with a string of health crises and tragedies that loomed large like a black cloud for months on end. Nobody was much in the mood for celebrating that Christmas. Still, my mother had paid for the room and the food. So the extended family gathered. They ate. They drank. They sang karaoke off key. (To this day, I cannot hear the Eagles song, "Desperado" without laughing and cringing.) Grown men fought over the "Abdomonizer" in the silliest, most hilarious Yankee Swap ever. At the end of the night, the sole remaining Ancient, my mother's Aunt Mary, hugged us all goodbye, exclaiming, "Thank you for this! I haven't laughed since September!"
And so the Over-the-Top-Christmas-Extravaganza was born. Each year's party has a theme: Redneck Christmas; Christmas in Las Vegas; Cowboy Christmas; Christmas at the Drive-in; the Sea Cruise Christmas; 70s Disco Christmas; Christmas on Broadway... Each year's party has a "floor show" featuring the youngest uncle as a snarky Santa , and a variety of extended family members in costume performing lip synch numbers. Who could forget the Sigfried & Roy number where a faux-Aunt and faux-Uncle wore matching gold lame` pajamas and tossed stuffed animals through hula hoops? Or the Spam-a-Lot number that really needed a trebuchet built specially for the big finish? Or the year the uncles all dressed in drag and danced along to "I Like My Women A Little on the Trashy Side" ?
My mother didn't stop at the Christmas party, though. There is now an annual "March Madness" outing to celebrate several March birthdays. There's a regular NYC trip to shop, eat, and see a Broadway show or two. There are also the cards and random gifts she sends to mark any success or milestone. If it is a MAJOR milestone, don't be surprised if the Sucrettes (what my mother calls her lip synch girl group) make a special appearance to recognize your achievement with a song-and-dance routine.
I used to roll my eyes at all the fuss. (Okay it's the costumes. Women of a certain age REALLY should not sqeeze themselves into Marilyn Monroe dresses.) And then, I had my own share of lessons in the uncertainity and difficulty of life. Now I'm more mindful about good news when it comes my way. I'm actively on the look out for special occasions. And now I think, "Hell! We're above the ground today! Where are those disco wigs?!"
What good news have you heard lately? What plans are you making to celebrate? If you need any costumes or props, my Mama has a barn full of them...