Betty Jo van Valkinburg Howard, age 5
Today would have been my mother's 90th birthday and I am missing her today. I always thought we would someday celebrate her 90th with a big party, which she would have loved. My sister would have made her a Bacardi Rum cake. Mmmmm. She came from a line of strong pioneer women, so this wasn't an unreasonable expectation. But not to be. She and my Dad both passed away, five months apart 17 years ago.
I could tell you about her many accomplishments, and they were many,— or what a great Mom she was—and she was, or about how she overcame a difficult childhood, but what I was thinking about this morning in the shower was how funny she could be. And I remembered a particular day.
We went to visit an elderly woman—sort of an obligation, but a lovely person, who was so happy to see us. She regaled us with stories about her children and served us cheesecake, which she had made, with the help of her housekeeper. On the way home Mom said she was so glad we had gone and how good it had been to visit with this woman. "And the cheesecake was good!" I added. Mom got a funny look and said, "yesssss, but my piece had a chicken bone in it." I was incredulous. Seriously? Mom continued, " it was almost the last bite on my plate, and it had a little chicken bone in it. I didn't know what to do, so I stuck it in my pocket." and she dug into her pocket and pulled out the little bone wadded up in a Kleenex. We stared in silence at the tiny bone and then we started to laugh. And we laughed until tears ran down our faces. Then Mom would pull herself together and mutter, "not funny" then we would erupt all over again, howling and snorting with laughter. It said something about who my Mom was. She was too kind to embarrass her friend by mentioning her gross discovery, or to even leave the evidence on the plate, but she wasn't above finding the humor in the situation and enjoying a good laugh.
So, on what would have been her 90th birthday I am not going to dwell on sadness, but rather be grateful to her for showing me, over and over, that you can't take yourself too seriously. She never did. Happy Birthday, Mom.