When my mother bought a six-pack of beer at the grocery store this morning, the cashier asked to see her driver’s license to make sure she was old enough. I think the young cashier probably felt a little foolish when she looked at the date on Mom’s license.
My mother turned 80 years old today.
We celebrated last weekend. To begin, I picked my parents up at lunchtime on Friday. We drove to an old inn on the first of the Finger Lakes, where my parents ate fish sandwiches with beer while I enjoyed a salad. The inn is more than 200 years old, and my father says that he has a friend who used to work there back in the 1950s. I loved that the inn had put up a tall Christmas tree covered with white lights and old-fashioned ornaments right next to the tall, curving staircase.
When my parents asked the friendly waitress if the inn had any ghosts, she responded by bringing over another waitress, who had worked there for years and could tell us which chandeliers sometimes swayed mysteriously. She also told us about the time that a customer, who had been asking if the inn was haunted, left a digital camera by accident. The staff dressed like ghosts and filled the camera with ridiculous pictures before the customer returned to pick it up. That story almost made me want to leave my camera by mistake.
After a relaxed lunch, we continued driving past cornfields and old red barns, and past a wildlife refuge set aside for migratory birds. We stopped in the next major town to visit a beautiful old mansion, once owned by a nineteenth century politician. An enthusiastic young man gave us a tour of the cosy upstairs bedrooms, filled with fireplaces and little tables and beds draped in fabric, the elegant downstairs rooms, and even the basement, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Our destination was a hotel at the north end of a finger lake. The Finger Lakes are long thin lakes formed by glaciers, surrounded by farmland and vineyards, famous for wine tours. By the time we reached the hotel, the rest of the extended family were arriving. We gathered at the hotel bar, ordering more food and drinks every time more family members arrived, and making plans for the next day. Text messages kept chiming in on my phone as the various grandchildren checked in to the hotel.
My parents’ room – a spacious corner room overlooking the lake — became the party room, where we all gathered to talk and play games. Saturday morning, we walked on the trail by the lake, enjoying the sunshine. We found a café in town for lunch, and we pretty much took over the place. One group went off to visit some wineries. Some of us swam in the hotel pool. Taekwondo Nephew actually swam in the lake, a pretty chilly endeavor. We all dressed up for dinner on Saturday night, 21 of us gathered for the meal, and we ended the night all gathered in my parents’ room, talking and eating again. Sunday morning, we woke to snow, and we took a blustery, winter walk out on the pier.
What I love about my family is that everyone is always concerned about whether or not everyone else is having a good time. Red-haired Sister took me aside and said, “Do you think everyone will want some snacks for late at night?” and then she went out to buy all kinds of goodies that we could munch on when we gathered that evening. The grandchildren kept asking me, “What do you think Grandma would like? A trip to a winery? A walk by the lake?” And my parents kept asking, “Are the young people having fun?” It seems like every person was mostly concerned with making sure that everyone else was having fun. And that made for a wonderful weekend.