"Will we have ALL the candles, Mama?"
"I think we should just have a couple."
At this point, all of our birthdays are really about the kids. We grownups don't have quite so much interest.
My kids have no recollection of a life without Nana living in our house. Nana has always lived with us, and always been theirs. It has always been like this and always will be.
When the kids list our family members, Nana is always one of us. They still don't quite get that she's my mom, that she was a grown-up before I was born. That she had a whole big life without them.
This is beyond their grasp.
When you think of all the places she's been, and all she's lived through to arrive at her current location, on the third floor of our house smack dab in DC, it's extraordinary.
I mean, she started out in North Dakota, and was the only one of her siblings to go to college. She met my dad there, fell in love, and then married him on his Air Force base in Texas.
|Note: I wore this dress for my wedding almost five decades later!
I hope my dad and Lou are hanging out somewhere, having adventures together.
After Peace Corps, my dad joined the precursor to USAID and went to Vietnam. There was a war going on, you know, so spouses couldn't go. So during those years, Betty lived in Bangkok.
And then my dad went to graduate school, and then they moved to India (and had me!), where they lived through a bit of another war. Then Bangladesh gained independence and we moved there (and had my brother!). Then Egypt. Then Virginia. Then India again.
She once got stopped at airport security because she had her enormous garden shears with her. And she said, "Oh! I always carry them!" And they let her through. Wouldn't you?
My parents spent the 1990s in South America.
It was never any of our plan to have her living with us. In an ideal world, she and my dad would still be in Virginia, and my kids would have weekends in the country at their grandparents' house.
But life is unpredictable, and while it can devastate you, it can always surprise you in beautiful ways.
When I tell other Americans that my mom lives with us, they're often shocked. When I tell people from many other countries--and this somehow comes up regularly with cab drivers--they nod. This is how it is where they are from, they say; this is how it should be.
This is how it is. And we are lucky.