On 7/6/2014 my beautiful mother turned 80. Now my mum is not frail or on her way out. My mum is very active and still involved in her community, she still tutors students teaching them to read, and I will add the students she teaches are not the nice compliant children, they are students who have come out of the juvenile penal system and have some pretty challenging attitudes. She also is the local junk mail and newspaper deliverer in her suburb, (if you have ever done that job you will know how physical it is). Then she also looks after her extensive vegetable garden, chooks, budgies and bee hives. She is constantly asking “Can I please be old now” to which we say “NO”
How did we celebrate her 80th birthday?
How do you get 7 families from almost every state in Australia in the same place on the same day?
My amazing eldest brother and my incredible sister started by finding a venue where our large family would be able to sleep, eat and gather for a celebration. The Aldinga beach holiday park in South Australia was chosen. It had a range of accommodation from budget dormitory style through to family accommodation with ensuites. There was a playground, jumping pillow and volleyball court on site to keep the young ones entertained and a beach close by for those who wanted to enjoy a walk and a brush with nature. There was a large recreation hall down the back which was excellent for our group. It had a large kitchen, 2 huge ovens, large cold room, urns and plenty of crockery, cutlery and cooking equipment. A wood fire in the corner, table tennis table, pool table (sad that there was only one pool cue with the tip missing) but we managed, there was heaps of tables and chairs and lots of room to move around.
Many people were involved in the preparation of the weekend, especially the local South Australian family members. Making beef and lamb stew, lasagne’s, apple crumbles, pumpkin soup, pea & ham soup all made in homes and transported to site. Then we had box after box of cup cakes, muffins, rocky road, madelines, biscuits and sausage rolls also all made in the weeks leading up to the weekend and stored in freezers. After packing the eskies to go to the park my sisters freezer was completely empty, it looked like a new freezer, not a skerrick in it. All this deliciousness was for the afternoon tea which was to be shared with the extended family and close friends.
Family started arriving one by one around lunch time on Saturday, finding rooms and then finding each other, hugging the ones we knew and introducing the ones we have only seen on facebook. Some cousins have never met and others have not seen each other in at least 10 years. After settling in and saying lots of hellos it was all hands on deck. My sister and I were sent on a shopping expedition while the rest helped with cake decorating, painting birthday signs, signing quilts and cards. Shopping was completed just as the store was closing, so then it was back to the park to roast vegies, make salad, roast potatoes and heat lasagnes for dinner.
Time for entertainment, first was a game of balloon tennis – 2 teams sitting opposite each other batting balloons back and forth, the catch was you were not allowed to lift your bottom off the chair. Many cheers, trick shots, missed shots and then also many where they connected in unforgettable ways. I have no idea who won at some point the laughing took over and it was the fun that was the eventual winner. More balloons were blown up and tied to our ankles. time to start stomping on each others balloons while protecting our own. I will warn you it is incredibly vicious and to see the final two 18 year olds lying on the floor kicking and clawing for each others balloon was hilarious. That game took some getting over, drinks break, chat break, catch up break with plenty of table tennis thrown in.
Mum didn’t want any presents, she just wanted us all there, but me being a creative person who loves sewing and patchwork, how could I pass up the opportunity to create something of significance and meaning. It was time to present mum with her present, an eclectic quilt with fabrics chosen for their pictures, everything that mum had done, enjoyed or been involved with during her 80 years. A personal touch was added by the inclusion of every family members photos, during the afternoon everyone had a chance to sign the back of the quilt adding that extra special touch.
I hadn’t finished there, Even though I live over 1000km away from the party I felt very involved with the prep by creating both the quilt and a photo book. The theme with this one was that every photo was us and mum. So many photos spanning the decades, so many memories. As I watched family and friends over the weekend I saw many taking the time to enjoy the photos in the book and talk about the memories and just as many enjoy the quilt, seeking me out to complement me on the work.
Speech time came around with some lovely stories given by several members of the family including children and grandchildren. I took the opportunity to say something that was on my heart. I would have to be one of the most emotional people out there and was already fighting back the tears before I was handed the microphone. Taking a moment to compose myself I then turned to mum a thanked her for teaching me two things. For showing me Jesus in everything she did, in everyone she helped, everyone she fed, everyone she sheltered, mum is a true example of the heart of Jesus. The other thing was for teaching me the lesson of Forgiveness, that it is for the person who has been hurt not for the person who has done the hurting. Forgiveness releases you to live without bitterness. Then I urged everyone to make a simple change to how they teach their children when sorry is needed. When one person says sorry, the other person says “I forgive you”. Teach a child to say this out of habit and it will be a much healthier world.
Time to clean up and wind down, have some hot soup and rolls and finish the weekend with a table tennis tournament, I am very happy to report that my partner and I were the winners of the doubles, but my sister took me out in the first round in the singles.
I was so pleased to see the bonds between the younger generation that developed so quickly without any hesitation. They are now more than family they are also friends, buddies and pals, looking and planning for the next time they can span the distance between them and see each other again.