Have Your Cake and EAT IT TOO

greatgrandmother, birthday, aging

My mom shows her great-grandson how to eat cake.

The subject of aging seems to fascinate my daughter and son and their spouses. Most particularly,

birthdays, grandsons, family

A bd cake, no matter how you slice it.

my aging. And my guy’s.

I haven’t figured out why. Perhaps it’s because of my upcoming birthday on the Ides of March.

They seem to expect some kind of terror in our response to their teasing, asking if we have “chair rails” on our new stairs – ha ha, and telling us that perhaps my guy is eligible to use the town’s “senior center.”

birthday song

A Singing BD Cake Delivery

Never mind that both of us are crazy busy in our careers and our social life. Continue reading

The Perfect Age

pambabySixty years can’t be a perfect age. Because after all, it’s … 6 0.

I never imagined that I could ever reach such an ancient bone-chilling spine-humping, arthritically-challenging age.

And why would I want to?

60 means death and neutrality. Yes, that’s the word. By the time a person reaches 60, she’s neutral.crazyatshore

Blank.

Close to negative.

pamdressedupUnimportant.

Uncool.

Un…I could add a hundred “un’s,” but suddenly what comes to mind is UNCOMPROMISING. Continue reading

Mighty Woman

older woman, grandmother, mother, mother-daughterMy mom just celebrated an incredible birthday milestone. She never shares her age (and gets mad if either of her children do), so I’ll just mention that it rhymes with mighty.

Which is exactly what she is – a mighty woman.

Surprisingly, she and I get along, despite the fact that in many ways we’re polar opposites: she’s small, I’m tall; she’s feisty, I’m more precise; she takes no bull, I avoid bull(ies); she likes to party, I’m usually tardy, always reading a book.

But, somehow, we mix and match, always coming away during our time together with a mighty story.

Like the one that involves a cop, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a departure.

Mom and I are in the car driving toward the San Francisco Airport after one of her non-stop visits – both of us exhausted. But I’ve got a Barry Manilow tune playing (Mom’s favorite) and we’re humming along (“You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t laugh, and I can’t sing, I’m finding it hard to do anything…”) when a thunderous “Wrrrrrrrr, Wrrrrrrrrrr” causes us both to let out a yelp. Golden Gate Bridge, road trip

“What is that noise?” Mom asks, both of us peering ahead, the SF Bay sparkling on our left, the vast Pacific Ocean yawning wide on our right, traffic moving swiftly with us on the Bridge.

I glance in the rear view mirror and gasp.

“A motorcycle cop,” I sputter.

“Well why doesn’t he pass you?” Mom asks, turning up Barry.

“Um, because he’s motioning for me to move over!”

We both turn our heads backward and Mom exclaims, “Shit.” Then she takes the word away, “Don’t tell anyone I said that; I told your children I never use a swear word.”

“Shit,” I respond, “where am I supposed to stop?” On the Golden Gate Bridge, there are no slow lanes, much less empty lanes.

golden gate bridge, motorcycle cop“Turn off before the toll booth and stop,” a robotic voice emits thunderously from the black-helmeted, motorcycle-riding policeman.

What, they have speakers in their helmets now?

“I’m going to give him a piece of my mind,” Mom shrieks as my heart races in anxiety. “He scared us to death – you could have had an accident!”

“Mom, don’t say a word!” I order. As I pull over and we both watch a humongous scowling man get off his motorcycle, his dark police uniform filled with hard lumps of muscle, I repeat louder and slower: “D O  N O T  S A Y  A  W O R D.”

The giant strolls over, John-Wayne like, as I roll down my window. Out of his rock-like face a thin hard mouth opens enough to spit out: “License and registration.”

My tiny mom crawls her upper body across me and shouts out the window to the cop: “I hope you make this fast! I have a plane to catch!!”

If looks could squash someone into a big crushed blob, my mom and I would have been two dead bugs on the Bridge pavement at this point. “I don’t care about your airplane. This car was speeding at 51 miles per hour.”

Before I could exclaim, The speed limit is 45, please give me a break, the policeman turns and macho-strolls back to his motorcycle, glaring up at us every three seconds as if we’re high-risk flights.

Ten anxious minutes later (after which my right ear is numb from listening to my mom’s protestations, recriminations, and demonstrations against the “insensitive, incompetent, insignificant, and impotent bully”) the officer approaches us again, standing with legs wide and expression as serious as dirt.

Before I reopen my window for him, I turn to my mom and plead, “Not a word – pleeeeaaaase.”

He returns my driver’s license, hands me a ticket, and remonstrates, “Speeding is not tolerated on the Bridge. Slow down. When you leave here, go through the toll.”

I swallow my retort and start the car, hoping to get away before my angry passenger can do any more damage. But she opens her window and throws her head out, screaming, “The least you can do is give us a police escort to the airport! I can’t be late!”

Lord above, the mean man stops on his way back to his motorcycle, turning around toward us slow-mo like in a Sylvester Stallone action film.

I gun my car and leave him in the dust, praying, praying, he will not follow, lock us up, and throw away the key.

My mom, after some loud mutterings that I refuse to understand, starts to laugh.

All the way to the airport.

mothers and daughters

Celebrating a mighty birthday this week.

May we have many more mighty fine trips together, Mom. Next time, though, I’m using the window lock position.

The Simplest Hardest Cake in the World

love, birthdayWhen we’re first in love, we’ll do just about anything for the new apple in our eye.

Even bake a cake. A cake from a 100-year-old recipe.

At least, that’s what I grumbled lo those many years ago when I began to date the man I now call my guy.

We met in September. He lived in one state, I lived in another, so we dated by commute. But by the end of November, he asked to stay for a weekend in mid-December. I said yes, and in the next breath he said, “Oh, and by the way, it’s my birthday.”

I skipped only one beat and said, “I’ll take you out for dinner.”

He skipped no beats when replying, “Um, what I’d really like is my grandmother’s birthday cake.”

WHAT?

Turns out, since my guy was a little boy, his mom made him a cake from a recipe his grandmother discovered long ago in an old magazine. My guy loved that cake, and wondered if I’d like to bake it for his birthday.

Before I could say, “NO,” I opened my mailbox to discover a sweet love letter, with a yellowed piece of thin paper inside: the recipe for ye old Ski Cake.”cake, grandmother's recipe, birthday

The day before he arrived for his weekend visit, I followed the directions to the last teaspoon, creaming the butter and sugar while “working in” the milk and sifted flour (back in the grandmother’s days, the cook had to sift her own flour). I beat the egg whites and made a meringue and folded it into the cake, per instructions. As easy as ….cake.

Granted, as soon as I took it out of the oven it flattened half its size, but still, I figured that’s how cakes looked in the olden days.

I frosted and set it before my dimpled date on his birthday, and with bated breath waited for him to take a bite.

He bit, and he chewed, and chewed and chewed, before he finally swallowed. Twice.

Averting my eyes, he said, “Delicious.”

I took a bite. The cake was as hard as a rock and tasted like stone.

Despite my failure, we married within a year, and on his next birthday, I tried again.

With the same results.

On our third anniversary, I had a new oven in a different state with a state-of-the-art mixer.

But the same results.

A week before our fourth anniversary, I called my guy’s mom and admitted my dilemma.

“I follow the old recipe exactly, each time, and each time, it’s a bust!” I moaned.

A small effervescent bubble popped between the phone lines. A few seconds after the pop I realized the noise was my mother-in-law’s chuckle.

baking, cake, birthday, ingredients“No one can make that recipe work,” the sweet woman explained. “On his birthdays, I’d race to the store and buy a Betty Crocker white cake mix. He never knew the difference.”

I didn’t find it as funny as she did, but you can be damn sure that I ran to the store and bought that cake mix, and the night before his birthday, in secret, baked the best Ski Cake my guy had ever tasted.

He said so.

And every December, he enjoys my home-baked, best simplest hardest birthday cake in the world.

birthday cake, recipe, Betty Crocker

Ski Cake

Turning Into An Age

age, mothers, daughters, birthdays

Blowing away age myths.

My mom just turned ______.

Well, I’m not going to fill in the blank. Let’s just say she turned yesterday.

When we celebrate a birthday, why do we exclaim that we’ve “turned”? Like, “Joe just turned 60 and he’s so grumpy.” Or Jilly turned 13 last week and is now a true teenager.”What happens to us, when we “turn” into a new age? Do the wrinkles around our eyes suddenly crease deeper? Do our muscles turn stiffer, or weaker, on our birth date?

Or is it more ethereal than that. Do we suddenly turn into a “new” person, a different person,because the calendar says we’re now one year older?

All I know is that if I filled in the blank in the first sentence of this post , my mom would never talk to me again. Or worse, she’d talk to me, but believe me, her words would not be loving or kind.

And I understand that  –  now.

age, age discrimination, birthdays, mothers, daughters

Cute as a button, at any age.

When I was a child, I never knew my mom’s age. She never revealed it to my brother and me. Of course, at 5, or 10, or even 15, who cares how old our parents are? They’re ancient and we’ll never be that old.

But I do remember the time, when I was in my 20s, when my mom turned a certain number, let’s guess 53, and she told everyone at the birthday party that she’d just “turned” 43. I did the math, and wondered if she really gave birth to me when she was only a teenager. Because all along, I’d been told she didn’t have her first child until she was almost 30.

I approached my dad with the sensitive subject. He kind of smiled nervously, shrugged his shoulders, and suggested I ask my mom. From the nervous tic in his shoulders, I figured that was a bad idea.

For years after, I noticed that my mom gave a different number to her age anytime my bro or I asked her. One month she was 51, another time 48, three months later, maybe 52. And we were in our late 30s by then!

By the time I was 40 and lying about my age as competently as my mom, I snuck up to my dad and begged  him to tell me how old mom was. He shook his head at me in disappointment.  As sagely as the good witch telling Dorothy that all along, all she had to do was click her red heels to go home, my father said, “All you’ve had to do is check out her driver’s license.” After a pause he added, “but don’t ever tell her I gave you that advice!”

birthday, birthday party, greatgrandchildren, parents, mother/daughter

Sharing her wish with great-grandson, not her age.

So, I’m ashamed to admit right here, to my readers across the world, that I did just that. Me, a parent, an upstanding citizen with no arrest record (and just one speeding ticket…or two), flew across the country to supposedly “visit” my mother. Then I sent her off for an errand, and like a thief lusting for a hidden diamond ring, I peeked into her purse and found her driver’s license.

There it was – in black and white and I felt sorry all over.

mother, grandmother, age, birthday

Teaching her grandson that attitude is everything.

What did it matter how old she was? Age is only a number. Attitude is everything. She looks at least 20 years younger than her “licensed” age, she acts 30 years younger (I’ve been known to whisper to friends who ask: “my mom is 80 going on 18”). She’s beautiful and trim, laughs a lot, surrounds herself with delightful friends, yells at me if I try to carry her suitcase when she visits (“I’m perfectly capable, thank you!”), and reads voraciously.Honestly, I can’t keep up with my mom – her energy is friskier than a puppy’s, yet her wisdom hits the mark whenever I need a mother’s words to get me through life’s kinks.

 “People have perceptions of what 60 is supposed to be, and 70, and 80 and beyond. I don’t want to be categorized,” she insists.

Mom, I salute you.

And I’m so glad you didn’t “turn” into anything other than your most wonderful self on this birthday.

mother and daughter, birthday, age

Mother and Daughter – Ageless