“Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.” — Jennifer Yane
Yesterday, Mom’s ninetieth birthday, was the day that she flew to Chicago after spending three weeks with family in Arizona. Traveling on her birthday was a little weird, but the flight was cheapest on a Wednesday. Besides, she’d had two AZ birthday parties, and one set for May in Chicago, so she was ready to go home. Aboard the flight, Mom chatted with her seatmate, mentioning it was her birthday. When this passenger told a flight attendant, the crew went into action.
First, they crafted a cake from a spare roll of toilet paper and heart-tipped swizzle sticks poking up like candles. Then, a crown, assembled with pretzel snack bags speared together with swizzle sticks.
A flight attendant announced that Mary was celebrating her 90th birthday and asked everyone to turn on their lights to represent candles. Mom stood in the aisle, and the entire planeload sang a rousing “Happy birthday, dear Mary.” She “blew out” her candles and the lights went out. She posed for a photo with the FAs, and one promised to snail mail it to her.
When the plane landed, Mom was one of the passengers needing a wheelchair. “I think we should let Mary get off the plane first,” an attendant announced, and all the passengers agreed. My mother was whisked downstairs to meet my sister, and while they waited for her luggage, her fellow passengers continued to shower her with happy birthdays.
Southwest truly made my mother Queen for a Day, and she savored every second. When the luggage was loaded into the car, some family members took Mom out for pizza, where she proudly wore her crown and displayed her toilet paper cake.
In a phone call today, Mom told me all about it, her voice revealing the big smile that I knew was on her face. She’ll tell her tale over and over, I know. It’s been a tough few years. She’s survived a major heart attack and a triple bypass. Macular degeneration has caused her to give up driving. Her poor eyesight keeps her from reading, doing crosswords, and knitting. Several dear friends have passed away. Yet, she plugs away, lives in her own home, cooks her meals, entertains friends, and keeps tabs on all of us in the family. Her sense of humor and her sharp mind are as strong as ever.
The women on Flight 3661 on April 8 couldn’t have planned a better celebration. My mother has had few privileges or big adventures in her life, and no fame or fortune has come her way. A toilet paper cake and a crown of pretzel packets was a delightful way to celebrate my mother’s ninety years, and our family is grateful that her flight was so much fun.