The best part of my celebrating my Mom's "big" birthday a few weeks ago wasn't the sangria or the margaritas or the guacamole.
It wasn't the flamingo decorations or my Aunt's necklace of funny pink birds.
It wasn't the personal chef and her two assistants cooking and serving us a delicious, beautiful and exotic meal.
It wasn't seeing my Mom's face when she arrived at her party and saw the photos of herself from long ago, the photos that made the hairs on my arms stand straight up when I saw them because there, there in those pictures that I'd asked my Dad to pick out for the special day, was my Mom, closer to my age now. There, there was my Mom sitting on the kitchen counter with her hair wrapped up in a towel, wearing her fancy bathrobe, shaving her legs in the sink as I stood on a chair (freshly bathed myself) looking eerily like my very own daughter. There, there in those pictures of thirty years ago, was my Mom - beautiful, pregnant with my brother, proudly holding one of the many fish that she caught while I stood next to her, looking up at her, a curious grin on my 3-year-old face. There, there in those pictures was my Mom, just her. A close-up of her looking quite serious. The look of a mother. A look I've seen on her face my entire life and which now surprises me when I see it on myself in the mirror or in the faces of my children when they've noticed it too.
The best part of celebrating my Mom's birthday wasn't the fact that she didn't have to lift a finger (although I got a few shots of her snooping on what was going on in her kitchen, she just could not help herself), or the fact that before she left I was told that I should have a drink in my hand and be relaxed when she got back because that, that would make her very happy.
The best part of my Mom's birthday was the rain. The rain that came after our soup course, before the grand finale of our epicurean adventure in honor of her birthday.
Because without the rain, we wouldn't have had the dance.
The dance that started with my Mom and Aunt as the tent was set up to shelter our tables for the rest of our glorious feast.
Within minutes, they were joined by my other Aunt and my Grandma.
I couldn't hold back.
Someone shouted "A girl's dance!" and my cousin, myself and my daughter joined our mothers, our aunts and our grandmother in a circle, holding hands and jiving each in our own little way. I think it was something by "The Beach Boys", but the song is of little importance, the people, however, are not. The people are the magic.
Like the women in "Practical Magic", dancing around the kitchen drinking margaritas and singing "you put the lime in the coconut and drink it all up", we drank in each other's happiness. Happiness that here we were, together. Women. The same blood coursing through all of us. Women. Family. Women dancing with each other, holding hands and grateful just to be. Grateful to have this moment, this gift, this life to share.
The men probably don't get it. Maybe they do, a little. Maybe they just liked to watch us be silly. Maybe they wanted to join in. Maybe they should have.
But without the rain it would never have been.
And I know that all seven of us will never forget, not even the youngest.
She will not forget, because I will tell her about it every year.
"Remember the time we danced at Grammie's birthday party?" I will say to her.
"Remember . . . it was you and I and Aunt Jenny and Grammie and Aunt Joan and Aunt Carolyn and Grandma Carol and we held hands and danced, all of us."
And she will say, "Yes, mommy, I remember."
And we will. We will remember the rain, and the dance, and the magic that we felt there with each other.
For that gift, for all of us, I thank you Mom.
And I thank you Grandma, for bringing her to me, so that I could bring someone to both of you, and we could all dance in the rain together.