We celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday yesterday. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We’ve been celebrating since July. My sister and I devised the “80 gifts in 80 days” project during which my mother would receive a gift a day for the 80 days leading up to her birthday. This was in place of something bigger and splashier—originally we’d considered a trip to Hilton Head or something like that. However, Mom doesn’t travel that well anymore, and she’d have worried about Rusty, who’s 13-1/2 years old and comes up with health issues a couple times a year.
So, in July we sprang the “80 gifts” activity on my mother. She loved it and relished opening each day’s present. She made a display on the bookcase in the living room and blogged regularly about the loot she was hauling in. (If you’d like to read about her gifts, check out her posts here.)
Yesterday was the official birthday celebration. Naturally, my sister and I stretched it to a three-day weekend of activities, with a lunch out on Friday. Mom made her own birthday feast yesterday, so we wanted her to have a decent meal she didn’t have to cook. However, we also wanted to put something in the yard to let the neighborhood know about Mom’s big milestone.
When Mom turned 60, one of our celebratory acts was to tie 60 balloons to the fruit trees in the front yard of the house where she then lived with Diamondqueen and our stepdad. When Mom went down the gravel driveway to get the Sunday paper, she discovered a billowing orchard of colored balloons on long ribbons. She loved it at the time and has referred to it often since then.
We wanted to do something new for her 80th birthday but ran into problems, the biggest being that 80 of anything gets costly. I’d thought maybe 80 pinwheels on the lawn, or 80 flowers on spikes, and so on, but it was going to be too much money better spent on other things, even actual gifts. We decided to go with the balloons again. I questioned whether we should go for helium this time, and Diamondqueen replied, “Do you know how many canisters that would take?” More money. We’d blow the balloons up with our own hot air.
I e-mailed Diamondqueen whether we’d put the balloons up for Mom’s Sunday birthday or do it earlier. She replied, “Let’s do it for Friday. That way it draws attention to her all weekend. Te, he, he…I can do it late Thursday night.”
The first mishap came on Tuesday. I e-mailed Diamondqueen on Monday that I was getting the balloons. She replied, “You want to bring some balloons tomorrow night and I can blow some up Thursday ahead of time and bring them with me in a garbage bag? (So we don’t have to be outside forever.)”
I can see now that I definitely misread her message. I got it into my head Diamondqueen meant for us to start blowing up some of the balloons Tuesday night. When I arrived, Diamondqueen wasn’t around, so I went straight up to S.Hooligan’s room where I usually sit and do needlework while she plays on the computer and talks. I took the balloons and ribbon with me and spent the next hour cutting two-foot lengths of curling ribbon, then blowing up balloons. I inflated 30 balloons and tied on the ribbons. Then I staggered downstairs.
Diamondqueen stared at me with her classic quizzical look mixed with contempt. “I think my brain is swelling,” I said. “I just blew up 30 balloons.’
“WHY did you blow up 30 balloons?” Diamondqueen bellowed. That’s when I learned she’d meant for me simply to bring the balloons and leave them for her to inflate by Thursday evening. Oh. When I departed that evening, I left behind the 30 inflated balloons in garbage bags, more than enough lengths of ribbon, and a large supply of balloons. I planned to do 10 more on my own to cover my half of the quantity of balloons we’d need.
The second mishap came on Wednesday. Diamondqueen’s dog, Frank, was scheduled for surgery to remove a growth on the front of his leg. Poor Frank was more miserable than anyone anticipated, whining all night and robbing the household of sleep.
I wasn’t sure if Frank would improve that much on Thursday, so I e-mailed Diamondqueen that I assumed we’d postpone the balloon thing that night. Also, I said I could come up that evening and sit with Frank if she needed me to, and maybe I could pick up the balloons and take care of the rest of the job when I got home. She refused on both counts: Frank was better and didn’t need anyone to sit with him, and she would come up late that evening as planned. Mom usually went to bed around 10:15; I said to come about 11:45 to give her a chance to fall asleep. Operation 80 Balloons was a go. [to be continued]