Friday, February 22, 2008

A Day Older Than George Washington

My mother was born February 21, 1936. Since she died in October of 2006, you don't have to worry that she will be upset that I've told you her age. In fact, even if she were still alive, it wouldn't bother her. Not really. She always told everyone she was 99 and that was that.

I remember the time I sat with her in the new dentist's office. I read over her shoulder as she filled out the form. When she wrote her age, I shrieked, "I KNEW you weren't 99! You're TWENTY-NINE." She shushed me and later told me not to tell women's ages out loud in public in the biggest voice you have.

"Why not?" I asked, admiring the genuine glass ruby ring I'd gotten from the dentist.

"Because it's not polite."

"Why not?"

"Because some women think it's bad to be too old."

"But not you, you don't mind being old," I said in shock.

I must have been a truly obnoxious child.

I found out many many years later that Mom did have one of those "turning thirty" crises. Her good friend died of breast cancer that year. She tried to quit smoking because, she told me with a dry laugh, "I thought it looked tacky to see 'old women' smoking, and old was 30." We both laughed, since by then, I was celebrating the 13th anniversary of my 30th birthday. She was still 99.

It was important to my mother that we remember her birthday. After a few years, she got prickly if we asked her what the date was. She gave me a saving grace, though. She told me that she was one day older than George Washington. At first I argued that it couldn't be true, but she insisted, in the same way she insisted that Santa Claus brought presents, the Easter Bunny laid colored eggs, and Hubert Humphrey would be president of the United States. So I quit arguing. It took awhile. I really was an obnoxious child. I can't remember when I realized that if I forgot the date of her birthday, all I had to do was look at the calendar. George Washington's birthday, February 22. Mom's birthday, the day before.

This worked for several years before the federal government stepped in to make my life more difficult. And although GW always celebrated his birthday on a Monday, Mom wasn't ok with moving her birthday around. I thought it would be very convenient to always have her birthday on Sunday. But she was funny that way.

It was ok as long as most calendars still had "GW's birthday observed" and "GW's birthday." Then many quit including the real date. Once again, I was in trouble. Finally, I just learned the date of her birthday. February 21. Or was it the 22nd?


annie kelleher said...

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Lydia said...

Memories of our parents who are gone are a nice way to fill a quiet afternoon. Thank you for sharing.


Hobbit said...

My sister celebrates the week of her birthday, calling it Jerigras. I am not sure about moving my birthday around, tho, just for convenience sake. This year I have been telling folks that I don't really care if they remember this year's. But they sure as heck had better remember next year's when I turn 60!

Sapphire said...

You write very well.