By Lila Johnson, Mill Creek resident, May 20, 2020.
I must admit, I shed my first pandemic tears when I could not hug my daughter on Mother’s Day. She arrived bearing wonderfully thoughtful gifts; we shared a lovely visit outside in our garden, social distancing the entire time and then she waved goodbye and drove off. I broke out in tears; feeling grateful to be remembered but sad because we could not embrace as we usually do. Just recounting it here makes me grab for a tissue!
This happy/sad feeling stayed with me when I remembered my dear neighbor would turn 83 six days later. Mary Ann is more than just a next-door neighbor of 23 years; she is a friend and a garden club cohort, affectionately known there as the “Raffle Queen,” because years ago she elevated our raffle prizes from simply nice to stylishly GRAND. She set the bar high and happily her style continues today. I spoke with Mary Ann on Mother’s Day evening and I knew we felt the same: she missed the family gatherings and loving hugs as much as I did.
How do we make eighty-three a birthday to remember when gatherings today are just not possible? Let’s have a parade! I had read about people doing them for 2020 high school graduates and who doesn’t love a parade. With an enthusiastic “Let’s do it” from Mary Ann’s daughter, Terri, I emailed and texted garden club friends and our neighbors here in our Parks cul-de-sac. We set the date and time, figured out social distancing guidelines and then got to work making colorful signs, ordering balloons, and spreading the word.
My husband in our red car was the designated “grand marshal” or the lead car if you prefer. Terri was selected to keep her Mom occupied in the family room on the big day. This would allow us to go undetected as we placed the signs, balloons, and set up a viewing area in the front yard. The participants were encouraged to make signs for their cars and be prepared to roll down their windows and sing “Happy Birthday” as loudly as possible. I crossed my fingers and hoped it would all come together.
Saturday, May 16, 1:00 pm, full from a delicious brunch prepared by Terri, and as pointed out to us—wearing no makeup—the Birthday Girl was escorted to her royal viewing chair under a canopy at the end of her driveway. With the wave of my purple and gold pom poms, the grand marshal positioned at the end of our street, lead the horn-honking long procession of cars.
They were all there: family members, garden club friends and neighbors. The convoy continued around our street with terrific hand-lettered signs, decorated cars; cheerful, smiling faces, greeting cards and gifts. There was even a rousing singing of “Happy Birthday to You.” I was pleased; we had pulled it off.
I believe this birthday takes the cake as the most unusual for Mary Ann. How does this story about nothing dissolve into tears?
We saw a most touching scene: when Mary Ann’s great grandsons with those sweet smiles and handmade signs rolled by, she cried. Tears of joy no doubt.
Yes, big girls do cry, and it is worth writing about.
Cade and Jace wish their Great Grandma a Happy Birthday with handmade signs and smiles. Photo credit: Lila Johnson.