Then, we started at midday- I brought up a Margarita (her fav) in a special "Love" glass. We laughed that it definitely was 5:00 somewhere, and had a toast to my already-departed Dad, her beloved Temp. "He would approve!" , she chuckled. "He would have made the margaritas at noon for me if he were still alive!" "Cheers, Leigh!"
Then, we opened presents: photos of her grandchildren- Kyrene Mei Paine's formal pics, Raiyah Paine's scholastic achievements, and Joshua Paine's antics running on the beach. Then, she opened my photo present- the "Red Violin" underwater photo that had recently been shot by Bob Halstead. She squealed and screamed! "Ohhh just LOOK at you, Leigh! How DID you get in that water with a violin! A VIOLIN! My goodness.....what will you kids think of next?" (She called everyone under the age of about 70 "kids". I LOVE it! It is full of wit and humor and shows off your bright energy! Just WAIT til the hairdresser ladies see it when I take it in next week!"
We laughed and laughed as I told her the way we had done the underwater shoot. She praised her grandchildren, She told me over and over how much she loved me and my sister, Kara Walker Griffith. We kept partying, and I put the funny glitter and diamante tiara on her that I had found at the Dollar Store, and handed her the special "magic birthday wand". "This is for you to be a princess all over again, Mother"- A tear crossed her smooth cheek and she told me how much fun we were having feeling like children again that day.
While the cold Atlanta day continued with sleet and freezing temperatures, we holed up together and shared memories. I went down to refill the margaritas, I eventually cooked "dinner" but neither of us knew what time it was nor did we care. I prepared grilled seasoned salmon, broccoli with cheese sauce, mashed potatoes southern-style, and then finished it off with a chocolate mud cake I had baked her.
We cracked open a bottle of champagne to go with the cake, then I climbed up on her huge bed and nestled my laptop between us. "Let's watch a movie on You Tube, Mother!" "What's You Tube?" More laughter, as I opened the videos and together we spent the next few hours watching excerpts of every wonderful old movie sequence she could think of. Rita Hayworth dancing as Gilda, Fred and Ginger in everything (of course), Shirley Temple and Mr. Bojangles tap-dancing up the staircase for bedtime, Judy Garland belting out "The Topeka Train" song, as well as many more, When we watched Gene Kelly do his "Singing in the Rain" we could not stop the emotion.
She told me that certain things in life are immortal and timeless, and that God had given each and every one of us a gift. She cried and said that she was so proud of her girls, and that the gift of music was the most special of all, and how happy she was that our lives had blessed hers.
Did she know what was to come later that year? Her intuition and warmth of spirit meant that every single person that ever met her seemed to fall in love with her. We laughed, we cried. It was a birthday to befit all birthdays.
Little did either of us realize that magical day and evening, that it was the last day we would ever spend together of our lives. I could not bear to post her last birthday photos until today, such has been my grief. But there is a time now- a space of contemplation and love- to cherish and to acknowledge.
Happy Birthday Mother- January 31st you would have been 92. I miss you. I will forever hold your memory dear to my heart. Today I cried, remembering you and that day, but my tears are tinged with happiness