My Grandma turned eighty-eight years old in May of this year. She’s never wanted to make a big deal about her birthday. It’s not a vanity thing. Growing up, the Grandma I knew was a very gentle, reserved person. When it came to big celebrations, I think she felt uncomfortable being the center of attention, or thought she didn’t deserve a big fuss. I am the exact opposite, so I never understand this type of thinking. As you may recall from Part 3, as a little girl, I often stayed at my Grandma’s house when my parents were away. Every night, we would go out for dinner at Pippo’s, a magical place where it was always my birthday. I don’t mean this as a metaphor. They literally pretended it was my birthday every single night. The waiters would ask me to stand in my chair as they brought out a piece of cake and sang to me as if they hadn’t done it the night before…and the night before that. Amidst the applause of the other patrons, I would blow out the candle then do a quick rendition of “God Bless America.” Fake birthday, real birthday, I am not one to discriminate. As I am sure you can imagine, I’m like your insufferable friend who wants to celebrate her birthday for a week. Ironically, this is my Grandma’s fault.
A little over three years ago, we celebrated my Grandma’s birthday with a family lunch at home. The following day, she would have to go in for a minor surgery. She was scared, and dreaded the ordeal. Right before we leave for the hospital, my mom asks me to find a song called “Georgy Girl.”
My mom tells me that when she was a little girl, this song was among Grandma’s favorites. We sit with her in the hospital, as she’s about to go in. We tell her we love her very much, and that we will see her soon. While she’s in surgery, my mom and I are memorizing the lyrics to “Georgy Girl.” I can’t help but notice that this very upbeat tune is actually kind of sad song all together. “Georgy Girl” seems to be about a girl who hides herself from the world and is afraid to come out of her shell:
Hey there Georgy Girl!
There’s another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide
And oh what a change there’d be
The world would see
A new Georgy Girl!”
We’re singing now. Grandma is out of surgery, and she’s doing great. All I want to do is make her smile, so I am really getting into it. I start dancing, then, I grab a nurse and make her sing and dance with me. My Grandma smiles brightly.
I see that same bright smile as I walk into her house on May 5th, 2011. “Isn’t it spectacular?” Grandma asks me. This year, my mom was in charge, and for the first time in a long time, my Grandma is open to celebrating her birthday with a party. There are eighty-eight Sterling Roses (her favorite) dispersed throughout her living room. There are little sandwiches and bottles of champagne. My Great Aunt Shirley, who is ninety-two years old, has been over since ten am even though the party is called for three pm. “Its marvelous! What is this, tuna fish? How wonderful!” Shirley says as she walks around inspecting everything. My Grandma is peacefully radiant. She’s wearing a champagne silk pantsuit that she has accessorized with a plum lace scarf. Hair done, nails done, everything did. At eighty-eight, she’s knocking it out of the park. As guests start to arrive, she becomes the center of attention. Everyone is so happy to see her, and she’s thrilled to see them. We toast her, and celebrate her, as she celebrates herself.
LESSON: You deserve it all. Allow others to celebrate you, and never stop celebrating yourself.
At the end of the party, I sit with my Grandma. “Did you have a good time?” I ask. Her eyes water slightly, then, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be like this. It was beautiful.” My heart becomes full, and I think about that song, “Georgy Girl.” The song no longer makes me sad with its instructions to “shed those dowdy feathers and fly!” It makes me happy, because she did.