LESLIE CRISS: Mom’s 80th would have been ‘best ever’ celebration

By Leslie Criss/NEMS Daily Journal

“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones.” Kristin Hannah

“Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.” Sarah Dessen

“That is the best cake I have had in my entire life.”
Ann Dial Criss

If things were different, my family might have thrown a large party this weekend. My mama would have celebrated 80 years of life last Friday. Certainly that milestone calls for a special event.
When my paternal grandmother turned 80, at least 50 folks gathered at a cousin’s house and nearly gave Mammaw a coronary yelling out, “Surprise.”
My dad missed out on a big 80th birthday soiree due to my mom’s illness at the time. So, we owe him.
Sadly, Mom died in the middle of her 78th year. But if she’d been here, I’d have thrown a party fit for a queen.
And she, a woman who spoke often in superlatives, would have proclaimed it the “best party I have ever had in my entire life.”
She was a good birthday party-throwing mom.
I remember many of mine – and my younger sister’s too. And those not retained clearly in my memory are still documented, some in black and white, some in living color, in boxes or photo albums in my father’s house.
Beth and I came along before mothers had the outside-the-home party options. No parties at McDonald’s or Chuck E. Cheese for us. At least not when we were very young.
So the planning included getting the house and yard ready for guests – and cleaning up after.
As far as I know, in small-town Mississippi all those years ago, there were no big party supply stores stocked with cool and colorful accessories to fit a surplus of themes.
So my mother had to get creative, something that was surely not difficult for an art major.
One of my favorite party memories is from way back. In the photo, I look to be about 5. The cake, made by my mom, was decorated with black cats and pumpkins and ghosts. It mattered not one whit that my birthday started off the month that housed Halloween.
Still and yet, we claimed the right to celebrate the first and final days of October all at once.
I wish I could have had the opportunity to surprise our sweet mama this weekend as she celebrated 80 years.
Maybe I’ll bake a cake – her favorite – in her honor.
And light a few candles in her memory.
And deem it “the best cake I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

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