Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 21, 2014

"It's good to be 90!"

I have planned many events for various work-related groups over my professional career and even after all those years, the night before, sleep doesn't come easily. The planning by then is a thing of the distant past and almost all the actual work is done. But the excitement of anticipation is always tempered by worry that something will go wrong.

The event I planned for last Saturday had an additional element - this one was about family. Mom turned 90 this past Tuesday and I had planned a party for her for the previous Saturday at a local hotel. Folks were arriving from California, Texas, and Washington, D.C. My sister Gaila and her husband Humberto flew in from their home in Bolivia.

And part of the challenge was the party for Mom was intended to be a surprise.

It began to unfold Friday evening. When Gaila and Humberto's daughter Larisa came through Mom's front door, Mom remarked how nice it was that she came from Lawrence, where she is a student at the University of Kansas. Mom knew it was Spring Break, so Larisa's arrival was somewhat expected.

But when Gaila's older daughter Gabriela popped in behind Larisa, Mom looked a bit puzzled. Gabriela had flown in from Washington, D.C. While Mom wasn't expecting her, her coming was within the realm of what might reasonably happen. Then Gaila came through the door, with Humberto close behind. Mom said she was overwhelmed.

Gaila, Humberto and girls had met up in Kansas City Friday morning and we had planned their entrances to maximize the surprise. Later that evening, we headed out to the airport with the excuse we were returning their rental car, which we were. But we were also picking up Dad's brother Stan and his wife Kay. Stan had reached the same 90th birthday milestone last year and Kay the year before that.

Mom has always been a very social person, so I was pretty certain she'd enjoy the reception we had Saturday afternoon. And she did. She and her close friend Stan sat like royalty at the center table as guests went over and chatted with them. And while there is never enough time to catch up with people we see too infrequently, everyone seemed to enjoy the time we did have together.

That evening, we had a dinner that was kicked off by song. Five members of In-A-Chord, the university a capella group daughter Katie is a member of, sang three numbers for the family. One of Mom's great-grandchildren was awestruck because one of the songs is her current pop favorite.

The evening passed all too quickly. The food was good and everyone enjoyed the easy conversations. Many discussions were prompted by the photos of Mom's life I had framed and set on the various tables. They included pictures of her as a baby in Colorado, a youngster growing up on a Kansas farm near White City, a teacher with her young charges, an artist, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Missing from the Saturday celebration was Mom's sister Edith. Edee decided to forgo the shindig, choosing instead to come Tuesday so she could be with Mom on her actual birthday. A trip to Olive Garden for lunch was the main activity that day.

I think it is fair to say Mom enjoyed herself. After In-A-Chord finished their last song on Saturday, they sang "Happy Birthday." Mom, grinning from ear to ear, turned to Gaila and said, "It's good to be 90!"

Left: Edla, sitting, chats with old friend Joyce Kyle while great granddaughter Sydney looks on and friend Stan puts on his picture-taking face; right: Granddaughter Katie sings, backed up by other members of In-A-Chord.

Left: While the room was being set for supper, the family photo was taken. Later, it was discovered that Uncle Stan and Aunt Kay weren't included as they had momentarily slipped back to their room; right-top: Edla's birthday cake with pictures of her as a baby, young woman and great grandmother; right-bottom: Edla and granddaughter Mariya by the three sketches Mariya made of Edla as a girl, young woman and as her grandmother.

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