Great Grandma’s Birthday

Great Grandma's birthday invitation. The photo is her high school yearbook picture.

Great Grandma's birthday invitation. The photo is her high school yearbook picture.

Great Grandmother, Virginia, turned 80 on the 25th of January. Verbena, her mommy, Auntie Em, and myself (Grandma Susie) traveled to New England to celebrate with the family.

L to R: My brother Jim, myself, Birthday Girl, sister Alyce, brother John

My mother with her four children. L to R, Jim, myself, Mom, Alyce, and John

The birthday party began with a mass at the only church my mother has ever belonged to in her 80 years. A soloist sang “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” one of my mom’s favorite hymns, and the priest waved the vocalist on to complete every verse, as a tribute.  Family participated in the mass, and Father announced her birthday to the congregation and commended my mother on her many years of service to the church. Attending mass was a very peaceful, calming way to begin the festivities – a kind of centering experience.

Great grandma Virginia with her birthday cake and favors.

Great grandma Virginia with her birthday cake and favors.

Then, it was on to the dinner party at a local restaurant.  My brother, Jim, toasted my mom eloquently. He said, “When I went to order the cake, the bakery asked what name they should put on it?” He answered, “That’s a hard one because she has worn so many hats in her life, and she’s been many things to many people.” Her name is Virginia, but she’s also mom, grandma, great grandma, sister, friend, GL, Blah Blah, Viggie, and, for a brief time in the 70’s, she was actually referred to as “Ginger.” Jim played some treasured Polish songs that my mom and her sister and friends sang effortlessly. Most of us, however, struggled through them to honor the birthday lady.  Jim also accompanied the crowd when we sang “Happy Birthday.”

All the great grandchildren.  L to R:  Connor, Keegan, Sam, Verbena, and Sophia

All the great grandchildren. L to R: Connor, Keegan, Sam, Verbena, and Sophia

We had many family gatherings during our visit. One thing I admire about my east-coast relations is they always make time to get together, no matter what family crisis/conflict is currently in the works. My brother, John, hosts dinners every Tuesday night, with few exceptions, for my parents, siblings, spouses, nieces and their children, and some adopted family joins in as well. These dinners are more than a ten-year tradition, that I suspect is very rare in America today.

Traveling in New England in January isn’t for the faint-hearted and we did have some weather-related challenges, but being there to celebrate my mom’s birthday and to visit with our whole east-coast clan was worth it. Have a great 80th year, GL!

Category: Thoughts on Life 3 comments »

3 Responses to “Great Grandma’s Birthday”

  1. Sue E.

    Sue, Such a lovely tribute to your Mom. How wonderful that all “the girls” got to help great-grandma celebrate. There are not many families that can do that. What memories for your Mom as well as everyone!

  2. Megan Magula

    Happy, happy Birthday and best wishes for a blessed 80th year. Sounds like it is off to a perfect start. I can only imagine how special Great Grandma felt being surrounded by so many generations. I also admire the weekly family dinners, something that I have been talking about initiating for, well, a couple years now. Maybe this will inspire me. Sue, you are such a gem of a mother, grandmother, wife, friend, & daughter, just like Great Grandma. Love to you!

  3. Cathy Conerly

    Oh my goodness — ditto the above comments! So well said by both and Susan, you truly are a great inspiration. What a lovely family memory for all! Hugs and blessings all around!


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