No, I’m not playing with classic horror movie titles here, it is actually my mother-in-law Rosemary’s birthday. Well, her birthday week. Tomorrow, she turns 96. And she is still rockin’. At 96, she still lives in the little house she raised her two sons in–67 years in the same house. Can you even imagine that? People move around so much these days–most folks I know have lived in at least a dozen houses in their lifetimes so far. Even my kids are on home #5 and they haven’t even been married nineteen years yet!
Rosemary still drives her car–not far, mind you, but she can get herself to the bank and the grocery and the drug store. She doesn’t get on the interstate anymore–she sticks to city surface streets, which is smart. She knows her own limitations in that area. She still cooks for herself, does her own laundry, and is addicted to cable news and the shopping networks. She doesn’t own a computer or an iPad or a smart phone, but she doesn’t seem to miss those things. Mostly, I’d say, because she’s never had them. Her life sometimes seems quite small to me, until I think about all the things she has seen in her 96 years on this planet.
She was born in 1925 and so much happened in that year alone! Women had only been able to vote for five years at that point, but significantly, in 1925, in Utah, Nellie Taylor Ross became the first female governor elected in the United States. In 1925, Calvin Coolidge was the first president to have his inauguration broadcast over the radio, and in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, while Adolph Hitler published his manifesto, Mein Kampf. The Scopes Monkey Trial, debating whether evolution could be taught in public schools began in March of 1925, Sears Roebuck (remember them?) opened their very first store in Chicago, Illinois and in June of that year, over in Detroit, a guy named Walter Percy Chrysler founded a little automobile company. Benito Mussolini took over Italy’s government and turned it into a dictatorship the year that Rosemary was born, the New Yorker Magazine published its first issue in February, and The Grand Old Opry began broadcasting in November 1925.
All that in just the year she was born on a farm in eastern Ohio, where they had no electricity, no plumbing or central heat, and had to toddle to an outhouse if nature called. Since then she’s lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, The Vietnam War, and numerous other world conflicts. She became a teen and young wife during the Big Band era and she and my father-in-law loved to dance to that timeless music. She went from cooking in a kitchen that contained a stove and an icebox to a kitchen that is a festival of modern conveniences, including a dishwasher, a French-door fridge, a microwave, an Instant Pot, an air fryer, and several other fancy new contraptions.
She raised her sons during the peaceful, idyllic fifties and brought them unscathed, through the turbulent sixties. Both boys achieved their parents’ dream of a college education and both boys presented her with grandchildren that she adores. She saw air travel go from an event that required a hat and gloves to something quite ordinary and everyday. She witnessed the first moon landing, photos from the Hubble telescope, and the Mars rover. Can you imagine? Going from watching the moon rise over the hills of Ohio to watching Neil Armstrong step down onto its surface?
It was hard to decide what to get her for her birthday–she has every material possession she could ever want and really needs nothing at all except…well, except maybe a day with her kids. So that’s what we’re doing. Today, we’re going over with her favorite apple pie and presenting ourselves to her service to do whatever fall cleanup she needs done in her yard–weeding, trimming, raking, planting. I know she’ll get a kick out spending time with Grandboy (for her Great-Grandboy), Son (for her Grandboy), and Husband (for her Son) and DIL and I. We’ll have some pie and sing and share some precious moments, all too aware that maybe there may not be that many more opportunities left because life is unpredictable. All we can ever know for sure is that the best gift of all is showing someone love and kindness. So happy birthday, Rosemary. I’m counting on celebration #100 with you!
Stay well, stay safe, wear your mask, and most of all, mes amies, stay grateful,