It's the 90th birthday of one of my best friend's mother, a woman I aspire to be like when I grow up. Despite a bum leg, this lady (and she most certainly is one, but is saved by her sense of humor and adventurous spirit) has experienced hunger and poverty in wartime and has traveled the world.
This is not supposed to be a birthday party. We have all been instructed not to bring gifts and not to mention the number I just mentioned; it will merely be a gathering of her daughter's friends who all admire and love Mom.
I am the only one, I think, who takes directions (in this case, anyway) to heart. I've come bearing no gifts. I do not mention any numbers whatsoever for fear that I might err (as I usually do when numbers come into play).
We are a gathering of women of a certain age (although Mom is the most certain, plus the 20-something daughter of one of us, and diverse backgrounds: German, Dutch and Russian immigrants, ESL (English as a second language) teachers and other educators, a baker, retirees, and a congressional aide. A mostly unmotley crew.
Gabi calls with her whereabouts. She's running late, having had to de-grunge after returning from the stable. Why was she riding her horse on this cold, rainy day? somewoman wants to know.
The cognoscenti respond that horses have to be ridden, no matter the weather.
The same person says that she's never been on a horse.
I chime in with, "I don't know much about them, but I've been hoarse."
She asks, "How'd you get over it?"
I respond, "I've ridden it out."
Guess you had to be there, but in the atmosphere of generosity, indulgence, and warmth of all assembled, there is laughter.
And then, of course, there are the desserts: chocolate cheesecake; a yellow cake with white icing; stollen; star-shaped, sugar-dusted ginger cookies; marzipan; dark Belgian chocolates; vanilla cookies dipped in chocolate; liquor-filled chocolates. I take some of every food group to compose my well-balanced dessert plate: chocolate, vanilla, ginger, and green.
Mom holds forth, gracious and charming and lovely. We are all delighted to be celebrating her unbirthday.