Monday, February 1, 2010

Many More


I survived my mother-in-law's 85th birthday celebration. In all, 72 people showed up to munch the hors'd oeuvres, sip wine and congratulate Betsy. If ever anyone deserves to be called a diva, it is she. It's remarkable how, after she lost her husband of 56 years, she's rebounded with a new boyfriend and her identity in tact.
Seems odd to call an 89 year old man a "boy" friend, but with Ed now driving a new 2010 Porsche, it's a lot less incongruous.
If it were just a matter of schmoozing with the elders, the neighbors, and an occasional family member, it'd be a lot less taxing. But everyone came out for this event. It's a tribute to Betsy's degree of divatude. That means all the cousins, their kids, and in some cases, their kids.
The day begins when I get carried off by Morgan, 9 and Cora, 6 to Betsy's closet for a session of dressing up the King. This means that I sit on a stool for about 20 min. while they adorn me with their great grandmother's pearl necklaces, earrings, and an occasional broach. My ensemble is topped off with a glittery ribbon wrapped around my neck. I emerge for pictures as Cora tells me, "You may not be the best looking person at the party, but you will be noticed."
At the midpoint of the festivities, my brother-in-law John clinks his glass and recites a poem to his mother. Everyone smiles, responds to the call and response, toasts Betsy, and continues eating, drinking, and exchanging niceties.
My favorite moment of the afternoon comes when Aster, the former caregiver of my father-in-law arrives with her two daughters. They are Eritrean, and quite striking looking. I haven't seen them in about a year and the two girls, aged 15 and 14 have really grown up. Both are now taller than their mom. We share a few laughs and I hear all about their new school (Oakland Tech. HS) and then I ask Aster about her family. I think to ask about her sister "China" (pronounced cheena) who was so named because she looked more Asian than African. I think later that I forgot to ask about Abrahet, a deaf sister. Then one of my sisters-in-law comes over and announces she knows someone in Ethiopia who is a diplomat in Addis Ababa. "If you're ever in Addis, and you need something...blah blah blah... I thought she knew Aster was not Ethiopian. I thought she knew those two countries were at war. Ouch.
But the best line of the day comes when we all sing Happy Birthday to Betsy. After the song, evryone sings "...and many more."
Aster's never heard that before. She looks over at me and starts laughing. "Yeah, that's a good question, she whispers in my ear; how many more?"
"No Aster, I tell her, "they're not asking how many they're saying and many more, wishing her many more birthdays." But you know, I think I like your question better. How many more?

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