This past week my mother turned 90.
Ninety years old is a pretty big milestone.
In fact there are only about 100,000 people in the tri-state area who are 90 and not many of them are sharp like my mom or live independently like she does.
Eliza was very excited that Nana was going to be 90, since it is "really close to 100." She dutifully made a birthday card. I have to admit that I did try to steer Eliza toward something with flowers and butterflies, but Eliza was pretty firm that a birthday card for a 90 year old Nana needed two things:
A Wood Pecker and a Pigeon.
It's hard to figure out what to get your mother when she turns 90. She has 47 sweaters, enough carves to make a rope to reach to China, and doesn't need any hats since her hair serves as hat all by itself.
So Eliza decided that she should make a portrait of Nana to match the one she made of Papa. This way, Eliza says, they can be together. Papa's is water color and oil pastels and Nana's is chalk pastels and oil pastels.
Cousin Bonnie volunteered to get the cake. She spelled B-e-s-s-i-e THREE times to the baker. Clearly the baker thought my mother is of French decent since he spelled it "Bessay" (and yes, it it does say "Happy 29th Birthday" because, let's face it, no one really believes my mother is 90).
We had a wonderful dinner at one of my mother's favorite restaurants with Bonnie, Eliza and some family friends. We stayed out a little too late (as can be seen by Eliza's face here), but they did provide lots of free refills on the wine and what the heck, you should stay out until midnight when you're 90.
On day two of the birthday weekend, my mom, Bonnie, Eliza and I went to Ellis Island. My mom has wanted to go for some time, since this is where my grandfather entered the United States and his name is on the Ellis Island Wall of Honor. The weather was a perfect fall day. The National Parks Service employees were wonderful and we never had to wait on a line and even got special seating on the ferry.
We were all pretty excited and clearly had inherited our ancestors sea legs.
My mom and Eliza were both thrilled to see the Statue of Liberty in all of her glory.
Ellis Island has been beautifully restored and the main building overlooks the garden with the Wall of Honor.
My mother refused the wheel chair for the first part of our trip and we all took a nice long stroll through the garden to look for my grandfather's name.
The wall overlooks the harbor, and you can almost imagine my grandfather's ship coming into New York Harbor in 1917, almost 100 years ago.
We found my grandfather's name and my mother was so happy to see "Stanley I. Johnson" engraved on a beautiful wall looking over the harbor of the city in the country he came to call "home."
I think my mom was very happy to be able to cross this wish off her bucket list.
The birthday weekend continued with lunch the next day with my cousin Tracey and her husband Charlie and daughter Paige.
But I think the best gift any of us can give to ninety year olds is simply our time. My mother was delighted to know how many friends and family wished her a happy birthday on Facebook (and has made me print out all of your good wishes).
I am so blessed to have had my mom in my life and I know so many people who have not been as lucky as I have been. My mother has been my rock and being able to spend time with her and talk with her each day is a gift to me and to Eliza. Eliza adores her Nana and I think they both look forward to their sleep overs and cuddling up with some good books.
Happy birthday mom. I so very much hope that Eliza gets her wish and we can celebrate your 100th birthday together.