The Birthday Girls, 106 Years of Wisdom
When I wrote this in July, I was planning a trip to Longboat Key to celebrate my mother-in-law Kathy’s 80th birthday. And when this letter appears in this issue of the magazine, I’ll be off to Virginia to fete my mother on her 80th birthday.
Aside from the 1930 birth year, they have other things in common. Grandchildren, for one thing. Big families. (My mother-in-law was one of eight; my mom had 10 siblings.) Children of immigrants. Religious. Products of the Great Depression. Both lost their first husbands to cancer at relatively young ages (38 and 56), remarried and lost their second husbands, too.
But in many respects, they’re quite different, too. For starters, Kathy was the baby of her family and, all these years later, she still enjoys having a fuss made over her. She’s happily ensconced in a South Florida home with my brother-in-law and his family.
My mother was on the older end of her family, and she tends to be pretty no-nonsense and independent. Mom has an interesting twist in her biography — she’s an identical twin, so she’ll be sharing her special day, Oct. 14, with her sister, my Aunt Rose. Not only do these two look just alike, they think the same, too, serving as each other’s sounding board and amen corner. I’ve never even had a sister, much less a twin, but it must be special to have someone in your life who “gets” you so completely.
I’ve had my ups and downs with both my moms over the years, but now I’ve come to have an abiding love and respect for both of them. Now I realize a lot of the things I perceived as “insults” from my mother-in-law were actually just differences of generation and/or opinion. And for every “how could she” moment my mother gave me, I’m sure I thoughtlessly laid a dozen on her. Having my own children has gone a long way toward putting all that in perspective.
I’m lucky. I have the collective wisdom of 160 years at my disposal and the love of two women who mean the world to my family and me. Happy birthday, birthday girls.