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.
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.
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.
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.
I see fun and beauty and dignity and grace. I see travel. I see true love in a marriage that lasted over 70 years.
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.
As Tom Hanks says in the movie BIG.. “I wish I were big.” I always have. I always will. This kind of big..
(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.
Speaking of reactions..Aunt Lindsay walking through the front door and seeing us all:
The female Portis/Kaplan/Klein/Bowmans:
Des. Born in 2012. Just in time to share the same earth as my grandfather for three more weeks before my grandfather passed.
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.
With awe and surprise..
With stolen moments..
With holding on and reaching out..
The questions of when we will see each other again. If we will see each other again.
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.
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.