Tuesday, May 5, 2009

post-party reflections

Mom's birthday was one long celebration, literally from morning to night. Mom never asks for anything specific, and in years past, we've responded to the occasion non-specifically: sometimes there have been cards; sometimes there have been cakes, or dinners out, or whatever. I can't speak for my brothers, but I've long been a master procrastinator when it came to big events like birthdays. That may have been a good thing on this day.

The birthday began with few plans in particular; an idea had been floated around a day or so earlier that we should order take-out for Mom, since she seems loath to leave the house these days. But as the day evolved, things just got better and better, despite the lack of structure. Mom had several visitors throughout the day, including our family friend Mrs. Kopf, and another friend named Mrs. Steinberg. She received a ton of phone calls, got flowers and food from various sources, and also received two cakes (thanks, Mrs. Kopf and Mrs. Burns!). Each time I tried to leave the house to go on a shopping errand, something would happen to prevent me-- an email, a phone call from one of the cancer centers, or a visitor dropping by with little to no warning.

Lunch was small and informal, but delicious. Dinner-- about the only planned aspect of the day-- involved takeout from a local Korean restaurant, Han Seong Ok. Dinner also saw us eating together as a family in our new dining room-- this for the very first time. It was the five of us, plus my aunt, who has been by Mom's side this entire time. They may be Korean, but the two sisters have seemed more like Siamese twins since my aunt's arrival just after Mom's surgery.

Dessert was a sugar overload for everyone, including the dog. We dug into one of the two cakes and had two versions of chocolate mousse-- one that I made from a package, like pudding, and another that I made per Nigella Lawson's incredible egg-less recipe, which I had stumbled across while in Korea. Still to be sampled are Dad's ice cream, the other cake, and a multi-berry pie that David brought over from a trusted pie-maker.

The dog was at his most ill-behaved on Mom's birthday, much to everyone's amusement. Maqz patrols the house with an inflated sense of entitlement, but because Mrs. Kopf began sneezing around him, he was banished to the downstairs for much of the early afternoon. This must have come as quite a shock to Maqz, who is normally given far too much leeway in our home-- not by me, as I'm the "mean" one, but by my parents, especially Mom. Of course, Maqz's presence is good for Mom, but the dog is also a thief and a beggar. When we began to sit down for dinner in the dining room, Maqz would leap onto an empty chair. Each time he was shooed off by someone, he would growl that high-pitched chihuahua growl of his, jump off the chair, and immediately seek out a different empty chair. This sequence was repeated three or four times: leap on, be shooed, growl impotently, leap off. Maqz's growling is what made the whole thing hilarious: it's hard to take a puny canine nebbish seriously.

But Maqz crossed the line when he snapped at his owner, my brother Sean. Sean duly consigned the dog to the basement-- yet again-- during dinner, which then proceeded smoothly. Maqz was let back upstairs after dinner, but was re-banished when we received a surprise 10PM visit from my former French teacher, Mrs. Landgrabe, and her husband, Dr. Ed Hayes. It was great to see them again after a long time apart; they've been a part of our lives since we three boys were students at Mount Vernon High School, where Mrs. Landgrabe taught French. Madame may be properly credited with motivating me to major in French and to think more globally; she had successfully passed on her love of the Hexagon's* language and culture to me. She's going through some trying times herself these days; those of my readers who know her are asked to keep her, and her daughter, in their thoughts. In any case, Mrs. Landgrabe's and Dr. Hayes's visit was a welcome way to cap off the evening.

All in all, it was a day of canine yipping and nipping, but also a day of laughter and togetherness, with plenty of hugs to go around-- not to mention flowers and more flowers to punctuate the hours. Mom got some presents, too, but I think I've said enough already, and will let her enjoy her new things in private.

We have two photos from dinner and dessert, courtesy of David and his camera's timer function. Mom, self-conscious since this whole mess began, didn't want to be in any of the pictures, but we promised we'd Photoshop them so that she'd be presentable to the public. Once I get that editing work done, I'll slap the pics on the blog so you can have a tiny glimpse of what May 4th was like for us.

UPDATE, May 16, 2009: It's come to my attention that I neglected to specifically mention the gifts of clothing from Mrs. Rapaport. Thank you, Mrs. Rapaport.

*"L'Hexagone" is France's nickname for itself, because the country's shape is reminiscent of a hexagon. The French jokingly use the expression "[in/at/from] the four corners of the Hexagon" ([aux/des/etc.] quatre coins de l'Hexagone), which means "everywhere in France."



augusta said...

Surrounded by lots of loved ones and lots of cake-no matter what one's health is, that seems like anwesome birthday day to me! Glad it was agood one for your Mum, Kevin!

Nathan B. said...

It's been some time since I dropped by this blog, Kevin--but I am very sorry to hear of what has happened to your mom. I hope that she will make a good recovery from her surgery/ies and treatment(s), and I hope that you will stay strong (both for her and yourself).