The plan was to have a belated, low-key birthday party for my eldest son. This included my daughter and her three boys, my family of four, plus my getting-closer-to-90 mother, not even 85 per cent of our convoluted family tree.
My mother arrived just as the sun was blasting past the maple tree that held the moon. She stood in my kitchen and commented on the five blooming primroses in purple pots that lined one windowsill. I watched in fascination as the golden light passed through my front porch, through lace curtains, highlighting her face. She looked beautiful, in the way older people do when the light accentuates all the lines of worry, love, sadness, and laughter that come from life.
She was talking about Lent when my daughter and the three bears arrived. The older one admitted he hadn't given up anything for Lent this year and my mother explained the focus now was more on doing something positive rather than self-deprivation. The middle one asked about fasting and Ramadan. It was an educational start to a party.
I had baked a large ham, made a vegetable salad, a fruit salad, and had help with a large batch of macaroni and cheese. In deference to my mother, who honestly prays without ceasing, I said a quick, impromptu, "Lord, we're thankful for this wonderful family, especially the birthday boy, who like this party, came better late than never." ( Two weeks late, two days labor, ten pounds.) One of my grandsons said, "was that the prayer? Can we eat?" So I said, "yes, amen."
After 40 minutes of talking about Star Wars, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings movies and books, good and bad sequels, the noise level began getting to me. While everyone was still at the table, I suggested a party game. Telephone tag.
Simple, silent, even trees could cup their tree hands and bend towards a nearby tree, whispering while squirrels and wind distract from the message. The 12 year old excitedly offered to go first and he was warned there were two grandmas at the table, but he had already whispered the message to my younger son, 22, who noticeably paused before whispering it to my mother.
My mother giggled and blushed, then whispered what she heard to my older son, 25, who looked shocked, shrugged his shoulders and passed the message to the 9 year old, who said it so fast to his mother, she said, "I think I only got the last part."
What I heard from my daughter was "Pass it On", ironically the title of a hymn that has deep significance to us both. I had to whisper it to my hard-of-hearing husband, the last in line, thinking he'll never get this. When he blurted out "pass it on!", the 12 year old said, "that's it!!!"
The son who had to tell my mother had thought it was, "Ass, pass it on," and my mother dutifully repeated what she heard which explained the look on my older son's face.
Gravity was replaced by levity. We all had a good laugh since Great Grandma had said "ass", just following the rules of the game. So out of nine people, a few small branches of the wacky tree I call family, there were three mothers and none of us felt like biting any tree hands when gravity was destroyed. We were too busy laughing and dishing out birthday cake and ice cream.