I Wish I Were Big.

When my Nana Jane was eight-months-old, World War I had begun.

When she was my age, World War II had just ended.

She was 50-years-old (and four days) when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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Is your mind sufficiently boggled yet?

I watched the makings of her 100th birthday party come to life. My mom, with her big heart and attention to detail, planned it as exquisitely as she planned all of the birthday parties of our youth. My Rocky Horror Picture Show birthday cake when I was 13? It had black and red frosting. The carnival she made for my little sister turning five. The endless pool parties and Bar/Bat Mitzvah decorations and sign-in boards. The parrots that hung on my bedroom ceiling for years after my tropical themed party.

Imagine doing all of that & more, and then planning a birthday party for your 100-year-old mother nearly a decade after the last of the five kids has gone to college. This post is a testament for them both – the one who gave life to the one who gave me life.

We all give each other life. It doesn’t just work downwards. It works up and every which way. We hold each other up sometimes.

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I am (mostly) without speech.

Sometimes I have to go home and unwrap the layers of myself that I had to wrap tighter around me in order to get home. In order to at least act normal, if I can’t be normal. To put pajamas-clad kids into safe and snuggly beds after removing them carefully from safe and snuggly car seats. I put my big feelings into pockets, only to take them out later and examine them.

Despite being tagged, I didn’t participate in the recent Facebook meme in which you’re given a number, and then you have to give that many facts about yourself that people may not know. However, I did go so far as to write up a list. In it, I was going to admit that I was seriously in high school when I came to terms with the fact that I would most likely never have superpowers. The kind in comic books. Flying with a cape, seeing through buildings and fighting villains with lasers shooting out of my eyes.

I was afraid there was no magic.

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(My Nana, the belle of the ball)

It took me another decade to realize that I may have been wrong in my fears. I do think there’s a magic. Call it what you want it. Find it where you want it. And I hope you do. Whether it’s religion or witchcraft. Thor or Superman. I look at the photos of my grandmother’s past and I think that she’s lived big. She’s still living big, and certainly for a 100-year-old. She has hunger.

For life. For food. It’s that life hum. It’s that buzz. It’s about finding dreams and joy and laughter. Love.

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I see fun and beauty and dignity and grace. I see travel. I see true love in a marriage that lasted over 70 years.

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That’s what I want. That’s where it’s at. Flying over buildings and having x-ray vision has nothing over a life filled with love, and lived mostly on your own terms. Terms of dignity and grace. Terms of longevity. That’s what I call big.

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As Tom Hanks says in the movie BIG.. “I wish I were big.” I always have. I always will. This kind of big..

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(I love this photo because it’s such a Sweet Jane face. She has made it as long as I’ve known her.)

It’s how she reacts when she’s impressed. It’s how she looked at Cassidy when I first brought him to Florida.

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Speaking of reactions..Aunt Lindsay walking through the front door and seeing us all:

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The female Portis/Kaplan/Klein/Bowmans:

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(3/4 of a nuclear family that began in 1912. Mind boggled.)

Des. Born in 2012. Just in time to share the same earth as my grandfather for three more weeks before my grandfather passed.

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(Uncle Mitch!)

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(Cousins. Identical cousins.)

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(Uncle Matt will be a great dad.)

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(“My new favorite cousin, Scarlet.”)

There are the memories that stay with me, stronger and thicker than most memories. The way when she was leaving that she reached back for my uncle’s hand. He’s her firstborn. Their hands clasped. How do you turn 100 and look at your 60-something-year-old son? How you wake up each morning, knowing it could be your last. With gratitude, I suppose. With wisdom.

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With awe and surprise..

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With stolen moments..

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With celebrations..

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With holding on and reaching out..

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The questions of when we will see each other again. If we will see each other again.

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When we left, I said goodbye to my mom last. She was the one who made it all possible for four very present generations to be comfortable. She thought of foods my vegetarian uncle could eat. She thought of the perfect pair of earrings for my grandmother to wear to the party. She made sure there were diapers and wipes in our guest room. She planned a treasure hunt of princess gifts for Scarlet.

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Can you imagine? Planning for the simultaneous happiness of four generations?

That’s what I want. I want what they have. All of it. I wish I were big.

That kind of big.

This kind of big.

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  1. I would do the same for my mother and Scarlett for you. The mother daughter relationship is unexplainable as I’m sure you know from the friendship with your own mother! This was such an awesome recap. I’m sure your grandmother had a lot of thoughts that you mentioned, but I think the blessed feeling dominated having you all there to celebrate!

    Kudos to your mother for making it happen!

  2. Wonderful recap of your Nana's birthday. My grandparents would have been married 69 years yesterday and both have been gone for a few years (my grandfather passed in 1999 and my grandmother in 2010), but not a day goes by that I don't think of them and truly miss them. I love that your grandmother totally lived big and made it to 100. To me, I had always hoped that my grandmother would, too, but unfortunately it wasn't to be, but she did make it to 90 and remember how we too celebrated that accomplishment. Like you I will forever be grateful that my grandparents did live on a larger scale if only in my mind and that they were mine for as long as they were. Happy Birthday again to your grandmother and hope she has many more to come!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Oh my, Sweet T! I have no words, I am almost in tears… I feel so emotionally tied to you through these last two posts that this was so amazing for me to hear! Thank you for sharing your family & for photos! xo.

  4. It's memories like this that stay with us! What great photos you have! Your children will love looking at them when they are older; I show my kids pictures of my grandparents and my mom to remind them of the important people who loved them dearly.

    1. The photos! So important. I’m so neurotic that mine all have to be beautifully lit and converted well to jpegs, but in reality, I cherish every grainy, blurry photo from my ancestry!

  5. Tamara, this is just beautiful. And your Nana is amazing. What a wonderful celebration of her life. Thank you for sharing it with us through your gorgeous pictures! And a life filled with love? That's a life well lived.

  6. What an incredible tribute to an amazing woman. To have all of you gathered together in celebration of her totally made me cry. WOW! And seeing the old photographs was truly special. Thank you for including them. :)-Ashley

  7. You had me at "When Nana was eight month old" !!! This piece is so expertly crafted, so deep, so beautiful, so real. This is a testament to our family, to life, to love which sustains us all. That is the real magic.

  8. Such a beautiful celebration! I think I started getting teary reading and looking at the pictures and I don't even know your family. I love when generations get together. Your grandmother looks like such an amazing person, I love how you posted all of those older pictures of her. What a life she has led! Geez, I'm getting teary again because I just love this stuff. Can you imagine our grandchildren will be showing pictures of us like this one day? Saying, this is grandma she was around to see 9/11…

    1. So interesting! And we’ll have our stories of 9/11 – like how I was close enough to see the towers burn, but not close enough to experience firsthand horrors. It was a scary time, though, and I know I’ll be telling my stories one day to the kids and grandkids.

  9. That was beautiful. What a great way, through your mom's efforts and your photos and words, to celebrate your Nana and your family. Totally teared up, how could I not?

    1. Aw, thank you! You’re awesome! I could only wish to do justice to what was done. That’s my legacy, I suppose, but it pales in comparison to what my mom and grandmother have accomplished.

  10. 1. It's not your turn yet. Your job right now is being all-everything to your nuggets. You get to be big when they leave you, so don't wish for that too hard.

    2. That photo of Scarlet with all the women? She looks FIERCE! I love it!

    3. There is one photo of your grandmother which screams "This is where all the girls get their eyes and lips!"

    4. I have a cousin, and we look nothing alike, but we sing the identical cousins song when we get a chance. Which is usually in public somewhere like Michaels or Hobby Lobby.

    5. Des is killing me. Why am I not holding him right now?

    6. Every time I see Cassidy with Scarlet I think she's the luckiest little girl in the whole world. Make sure she knows how precious and rare it is to get to have this kind of daddy.

    7. I love you even more than I did before.

    1. True that. I would love to be big now, but who has time for that? They don’t even know I wrote this. They still want me to go to the store for milk and to buy princess toys.
      Scarlet does look fierce there!
      And I agree about Scarlet and Cassidy, and I love you more than I did before because of this comment!

  11. Wow — what an amazing day! I remember feeling like this when we had my grandpa's 80th birthday party. Father of 10 children, grandfather to over 30! He had an 8th grade education yet he saw to it that all 10 of his children graduated from college. And marriages that last that long are just amazing to me.

    1. I remember my grandfather’s 80 on the other side. And my great-uncle was 90 then and he said, “He’s so lucky to be only 80! He has so much to look forward to.”
      I never forgot that! 80 is the new 30.

  12. This was so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes. I must say, you have an incredibly gorgeous family. It truly does boggle my mind to think of what someone who has lived to be 100 has seen. The history they have witnessed and survived. Amazing!

    1. Yes! Mind boggling. Thank you for your words and even your tears! Not like I want to make people tear up, but it’s nice to know we all have such strong values.

  13. Thinking about the scope of 100 years lived is truly amazing. I so love all these photos, but esp. the old ones. I've always been a little obsessed with old photos.

    I think you already do live big, Tamara. Sometimes we don't know how big until we're looking back on it. But wanting and trying to live bigger is a goal we would all do well to have.

    1. You're so right. I want to be bigger. I hope I don't spend my life thinking the next big thing is around the corner, and not wonderfully in front of me.

  14. You're so right, Joi. That's why I think the cycle of love and caring goes up, down and all-around. It comes back to us.

    And I really think/hope you're right about the blessed feeling dominating.

  15. Shana's right. You are living big now. You're Nana's legacy, same as your sisters and your kids. And there's a lineage behind you of amazing women you'll never know as them, but who live on through you. You carry them.

    Nana's lucky in that she gets to sit among her own legacy. This is the ultimate way of living big.

    1. Thank you. As I said to Shana, I hope I don’t spend my life waiting for the next big thing instead of noticing what’s in front of me. I do think I have a long way to go, though!

    1. I know what you mean! I was born in 1980 and I’ve seen so much change! My grandmother has watched war after war after technology after technology, and so on. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Life stuff.

  16. I remember thinking that about my paternal grandparents too – that they lived life BIG. It was about enjoyment and adventure. Tough stuff too, but we all have ways of getting through that. I'm lucky to have known them all. Wish my kids could have known all four, but at least Scarlet met my mom's parents, and Des has met my mom's mom.

  17. Tamara how sweet! Four generations of women? OMG….I can just imagine the wisdom that Princess Scarlet was able to absorb in that atmosphere. Such an awesome gift to have someone around that has seen so much!

    I LOVE Des' shirt and the fact that he's such a little boy (Lambie in mouth), and Scarlet? I've said it before, I'm absolutely in love with how free she is and how free you allow her be! She's going to be an AWESOME and STRONG woman! WATCH OUT WORLD! =)

    P.S. Have no doubt…..you're BIG!

    1. Lambie in the mouth is pretty much my favorite!

      Thank you so much – I cherish every word here. I don't feel big at all, but maybe this family has the seeds of big. The kind of big we want, which includes a lot more nightlife and travel! (I can't lie!)

      I love that Scarlet is watching this all unfold, as she unfolds into her own person.

  18. What a precious family, Tamara. You are blessed to be part of a rich lineage of strong, beautiful, resilient women. Four generations together… just splendid. And the photos are to die for!

  19. You already are! You're SO big! This post is larger then life. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. It's so precious, so delicate, so full of BIG life.

    …and you made my cry in Starbucks. I must now make my exit…

  20. Wow I am so amazed…and how blessed are you to have such a great grandmother, mom, and your whole family? So wonderful…and I do hope you live life Big!

  21. There is so much I could say about this post and your lovely grandmother and your mom for giving your grandmother this amazing day and the way she made sure that everyone at the party had what they needed. I think your sentiment on how we all give each other life is a testament to what your family was able to do for one anther and for your guests on this amazing day.

  22. This is such a beautiful post. I would have loved my grandparents to have met Dave and Lucas, but they all passed much too soon. He has been able to spend a few years learning and enjoying the company of some of Dave's grandparents, which makes me happy.

    I don't think you have to be Big just now; I suspect it's one of those things you grow into. Like enjoying cabbage ๐Ÿ˜› It's enough for you to be the wonderful, tender-hearted woman that you are.

  23. Ahhh, this is such a wonderful celebration of a lovely life. The details were so special and very touching. I’m always moved by your descriptions and photos, and I so appreciate you sharing them. Your Nana Jane looks great!

  24. I love this big. Four generations all together, smiling, laughing and celebrating the woman who made it all possible (with some help from your grandfather, of course). You are that kind of big, Tamara. Thank you for sharing your bigness with us!

  25. I love this tribute to not only your Nana but also your Mom!!! Clearly you have had the influence of some incredible women!!! That 4 generation picture is so awesome!!!
    Thank you for sharing such beautiful memories with us!!! I enjoyed it and it made me think of my own grandparents who I miss more than I would have thought possible!!!

  26. Ah I can see 100 year old Tamara. You’ll probably have Scarlet taking the pictures at that point.

    This post makes me miss my grandparents, too, and I have too many feelings all at once to articulate that any better than I just did. Just know that you are incredibly blessed to be able to share your Nana’s 100th birthday! I want to live big like that, too.

    1. I hope there’s a 100-year-old me! And I hope Scarlet finds her way of capturing/creating these moments.
      Judging from your writing, I think you are living big!

    1. Thank you! Lambie is kinda an obsession around here. Don’t tell Des but there are actually four of her, and we wash and change them out. Shhhh!

  27. What a beautiful celebration and great looking family. 100 years old is definitely a cause for gathering. I love this post, it’s amazing the impact a person can have on our lives and the amount of living that can be done in 100 years. Happy birthday Nana!

  28. It is a beautiful celebration for your family. Wonderful. You 'are' that big. Don't you worry.

    We share the family longevity. 99 and 103 years of age for my family.

    Lovely photos!

  29. Such a beautiful celebration! I have been waiting on pins and needles for this post, and you never disappoint! I love that you are able to share all of these awesome memories with multiple generations…that in itself is a “super power” that many of us..no matter how bad we want it…will never have. SO beautiful.

  30. Oh my! No wonder you didn’t want to leave! This was absolutely amazing. I’ve thought about writing a post about my great grandma. I spoke to her the other day (we talk at least once a week) and I learned that she has lived through a lot too! She was born in 1919! This was such a lovely dedication to your grandma. I hope you will be able to always look back on this one and just smile ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. 100 years…WOW! Two world wars and a lifetime of cherished memories. A life this big is beyond super powers.

  32. wow…we have almost a similar story in our posts….

    I am happy for your family to have a blood line of long lived life… when I was in grade school, I also dreamed a lot of being a super hero, or if not, a girl with two angels on both sides, to defend myself from mean classmates…;)

    God bless your grandmother…she has such a nice name, Sweet Jane…very nice….very touching post…

  33. Love, love, love this post! Your family is amazing. I love the old pics of Leo & Jane. When I worked at Woodlands Country Club, I would always see them holding hands & smiling and it instantly warmed my heart!

  34. Tamara, you truly captured your Nana jane beautifully. What a wonderful life she has had. Thank you for sharing those nostalgic photos of a time we will never know. Beautiful and blessings to your family!

  35. This post just brought a tear to my eye. You so beautifully captured an amazing event. You can see how happy everyone was to be celebrating your Nana’s day. I love to see so many generations in one room!

  36. Sounds like your grandmother has lived quite an amazing life; and your family celebrated it well. Congratulations again on having such a special occasion to celebrate.

  37. The thing that struck me the most about this post was that awesome “something new for you in ’42” holiday card! What a hoot! That, and the fact that so many gorgeous looking people all started with ‘Sweet Jane.’ You’re lucky to come from such a close family – not everyone has that – so happy the day was so wonderful for you all!

  38. Oh I wish I were big too. I have always wanted to be that kind of big. I’m starting to feel as though I never will get there. But there is time, isn’t there? This is such a beautiful and loving tribute to an amazing journey and amazing people.

  39. This post was AMAZING. What a beautiful life – and it's right here for the world to see. Does she read your blog? Can you share my birthday wish with her? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. She doesn't! I think it would have to be read to her. She doesn't see well or hear well, although hearing aids can make audio books possible.

      I will pass your wishes along!

  40. Oh how I wish I was big as well. I love your kind of big! Truly amazing. This is such a beautiful, yet sad post. Whenever I read your posts I always feel like I'm right there with you celebrating. Being able to celebrate your grandma's 100th birthday in such an amazing way with everyone there is big! Love all the photos as usual and here's hoping for 101 and more!

  41. For this post alone, you are already BIG! The most beautiful thing I've read in the longest and your mother and grandmother are beautiful. I can only pray that my son writes these sweet things of me when he's older. So glad she enjoyed her day.

  42. How I want to live big like that too! What an awesome family you have – you certainly have a great role model in your mom and I already know that you are living big and are that role model to your gorgeous kids!!!

  43. This was so beautiful! You can tell how much love there is in your family from your words and the pictures! How wonderful to have 4 generations together. That is truly special!

  44. The throwback pictures are beautiful! Photos are so important to preserving memories. You and your children are going to be so glad to have all of these pics for years to come. If 100 looks like this, then I'm ready. Go Nana!

  45. Happy birthday, Nana Jane! 100 years just blows my mind. This post was so personal and so very well written. Sounds like you're mom did a wonderful job at hosting this very important milestone. I get overwhelmed with emotion when my grandparents get to spend time with my children – it's a blessing. Four generations of love under one household is a beautiful thing!

  46. Truly an amazing celebration of SO much, Tamara! And you look like her, you know. Happy Birthday to your amazing Grandmother. You have such a lovely family…

  47. So be beautiful Tamara, the photos and the writing. Happy Birthday to Napa Jane. I hope to have that, lots of family and love when I reach my later years. It's a testament to love that everyone made the time to be there!

  48. I had asked for your grandmothers secret and you gave it. To be happy, to love, and to be love. What would life be without that?

    When I saw the pictures of your grandmother the family resemblance is startling. I do not have that kind of resemblance to my family. My oldest too children do look very much like me though. To the point that since we are in a small town people I never met will say "oh, you must be Colton's mom". ๐Ÿ™‚

    Speaking of love, lambie looks well loved. So sweet.

    Once again, happy birthday to your grandma!

  49. Wow, Tamara, I'm stopping by because Bloglovin' suggested you – and boy did they do a good job! I love this post! I can relate for sure – with a 93 year-old grandmother (my mother being one of three children that still call her "Mommy")who still goes to the gym and likes to shop and runs Hadassah luncheons for over 100 women, I am looking forward to being big someday too. Thanks for sharing your family.

  50. I don't think I look like my mom! In person I'm on the tall, thin, dark-haired side of things. She's petite and light-haired. Maybe we'll look more alike as we age.

  51. I get overwhelmed too. And overly protective of my kids having all six of their grandparents intact for years! Not that I have any control over it, but I think about it a lot.

  52. First off, I’m ridiculously embarrassed that it took me this long to read this post. But so thankful that I did. It’s beautiful and gorgeous and such a lovely celebration. All those generations together. I can’t imagine. What a truly big life.

  53. I so meant to comment on this post days ago! It is so sweet and touching! I love all the effort your mom put into the entire party! I love that four generations of family were able to be together to celebrate Sweet Jane’s 100 years life! This is a beautiful post Tamara!

  54. So beautiful Tamara, I just love your way with words. Your grandmother is amazing, going by her photos she’s really lived a full life, she was (and still is) so beautiful!! And that card, she must also have such a sense of humor. It was kind of crazy seeing photos of her so young and then seeing her now, at the age of 100. Getting older is just so far out of my mind, like it won’t ever happen to me. And ya TOTALLY got me when you talked about her taking her firstborn’s hand into hers…so glad you and your family were able to celebrate her 100th with her. What an event!

    1. I hear that. I was reading recently a story from the viewpoint from a woman in her 20’s and she was talking about how getting old is such a disconnected thought to her..and probably to most young people.
      So true!

  55. Wow, what an amazing life she’s led. I remember when my great grandmother celebrated her 100 birthday. Like your Nana, she was surrounded by four generations of loved ones. It was beautiful, and those moments are the ones that make me want to have more children. I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m probably not going to change the world through my work, but if in the end, I am surrounded by a room full of family who love me then I’ll consider my life a success. Thanks for sharing. P.S. I’m visiting from LOBS ๐Ÿ™‚

  56. She looks awesome for 100. And what a sassy lady she was! Your whole family is comprised of gorgeous women! Missed this the first time around. Glad I caught it through #LOBS

  57. How amazing to live that life. 100 years. The things she has seen and lived through. I know you are taking good notes and recording her memories. Now, THAT would make an amazing book.

  58. This is just wow! At 100 years old and still hungry for life, I want to have that kind of spark even when I turn older. It is amazing to think how she has witnessed so many things in your history. It’s certainly one big thing to celebrate!

  59. I looked and stared at all of your memory filled photos over and over again with smiles and teary eyes. They are all so beautiful, and your words are every bit as beautiful too! I love your Grandparents’ Christmas Card from 1942. My parents were married on November 12, 1942 while my Dad was on leave from his service with the Navy. I’m very happy to see so many responses to your most touching and heartwarming blog, Tamara. You touched many of us in a Very Big Way!

    1. Ah, thank you! I was wondering if you had read this one. It’s two years old and I’m not sure if I “knew” you then yet. Or maybe Lindsay posted it.
      Either way, XOXO.

  60. This. Posts like this are why I’m one of your biggest fans. Beautiful Tamara. I’m teary and inspired and smiling and…so much emotion (and it’s not even my family!!) I hope your Nana Jane reads your blog.

    1. I’m a big fan of yours too!
      I actually posted this two years ago and it showed up in my “Facebook Memories” today. I’m not sure she ever read it! She passed away last summer.
      I’m so grateful and sobby for all of it.

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