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November 19, 2015

Elderly Mothers and the Party that Never Was

My 96 year-old mother loves a party. Just because she is 96 doesn’t mean she’s forgotten.

Silver tray catch-all

Silver tray catch-all

When we lived in Mexico, she and my father used to put on parties all the time, whether for birthday parties or for the members of the Junior League or their friends in the American community. The parties were always, elegant, lively and well attended.

Back in her heyday, those parties usually included polished silver and fine china, crisp linen napkins and fancy aperitifs, and, of course, the best wines. Now that she has cut back on her possessions, the only thing left is a single large silver tray. I have no idea how she saved it but I hope it provides memories of the good old-days.

Richard was coming to tea

Richard was coming to tea

Yesterday, Mom let me know she wanted to have a party for Richard, her library buddy and his wife. It had slipped her mind to tell me earlier. Nearly petrified with anxiety, I was about to haul out the cut crystal vases, rush down to buy roses, order canapés, polish the silver and iron the linen napkins from the “big” house. I remember the way she used to party.

Thank goodness, she insisted on keeping it simple. And for once, I obeyed.

When Mom came to stay with me several months ago she came with zip-zero-nada in the way of dishes or plates.  I had provided a full set of “fine” grocery-store-give-away china for the trailer. It is edged in blue designs so it matches, more or less, the blue in the chairs and the walls of the trailer. Okay, it’s not fancy, but it serves the purpose, and its not chipped, and its not from Goodwill, and it was free.

After fixing her breakfast, I cleared off the table, washed the silver tray, laid out the “fine” china, along with the not-silver silverware, teacups and saucers, and paper napkins (I shuddered to do it). For

Plating the party fare

Plating the party fare

food, I used some tuna salad that was already in the fridge, brought some of Hubby Flatbottom’s Ritz crackers from the big house, and laid out her two boxes of pretzels and crackle-caramel. I had cooked a Marie Callender pumpkin pie the day before, so I plated slices of that with a dollop of whipped cream and a red raspberry. Covered everything in plastic wrap. Done.

Meanwhile, Mom had showered all by herself, although she had to sit on the stool outside the shower to get her breath back. She put on a semi-whitish blouse, no stains, thank goodness. Then she struggled into her 3XL white pants that she has laboriously resized to a Medium, by hand. She got her shoes on without too much trouble using the new shoehorn, combed her hair and even applied a little lipstick.

It was 9:30 am and we were ready. Richard and his wife were due to arrive at 1:30 pm.

I went back to the big house, walked the dogs, wrote my 2000 words for NaNoWriMo, cleared my e-mails and went on to my meetings, having given up on lunch with friends to stay for the tea party.

I came out to the trailer at 1:20 ready to help play wait-staff — only to see Richard’s car

Eating what's left

Eating what’s left

disappearing down the road. What the heck?!

Perfectly composed and undisturbed by the change, Mom explained that Richard’s wife had gotten ill. He had come early to tell her they wouldn’t be coming. Nothing daunted, Mom insisted Richard eat the pumpkin pie (he willingly had two slices) and then took the other half of the pie back to his wife.

Mom and I ate the tunafish on crackers and finished off the pie. Then I put everything away.

I call it a blessing that I hadn’t ordered canapés or bought roses or polished the silver.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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