Gloria, my dear friend affectionately called “Mama G” by loved ones, dreamed of celebrating her 70th birthday in Paris with her daughters. Plane tickets had been bought, hotel rooms reserved.
The coronavirus pandemic had other ideas.
Mama G’s four fabulous daughters had other ideas as well and made the Parisian celebration a reality — with an asterisk.
The asterisk: if they could not take their mom to Paris, they would bring Paris to her.
And so it was on her milestone birthday last weekend that Mama G, wearing a dazzling evening gown and stylish hat, enjoyed dinner al fresco at a bistro with lace tablecloths and candlelight, fine wine and gourmet food, and a view of the Eiffel Tower.*
Asterisk: a poster of the iconic landmark and an elegantly decorated table were set up on Mama G’s backyard patio. Stephanie, Beverly, Jennifer and Jessica — the Fab Four — filled the seats along with one spouse and two fiancés, all safely quarantined beforehand.
Before dinner, Mama G spent the day sightseeing. Indeed, there are pictures of her in front of the Eiffel Tower and Cathédrale Notre-Dame; at the Arc de Triomphe and the Palace of Versailles; visiting the Louvre and more.*
Asterisk: the pictures were Photoshopped surprises.
The photographs taken at dinner, however, needed no Photoshopping to add in smiles as wide as the River Seine. Still, a faux Parisian party could not fully measure up to the real thing.
Again, the Fab Four had other ideas. The actual trip to The City of Light would have been a small private affair, but for the amended celebration they invited friends and loved ones from across the country, and beyond, to come along.*
Asterisk: thanks to Zoom, more than 60 people attended the birthday party in “Paris.” Scrolling through numerous computer screens was required to see every attendee.
In an actual bistro, it would have been too crowded to clearly hear the toasts given. But on Zoom, everyone in attendance simply took turns sharing their love to Mama G. It was wonderful. No, better than that: Gloria-ous.
The toasts and memories and stories came from people who have known Mama G for more than 50 years, those who entered her life five years ago, and even more recently.
One of the wonderful sentiments came from Deb, who tearfully offered in part: “Happy birthday to Mama G! To my second mother, I wish you another happy and healthy 70 years. You have raised four amazing, brilliant, beautiful women and took me in as your own. I am forever grateful to have you as me second mama.”
As you can imagine, like the champagne in the “bistro,” Mama G’s tears flowed freely. Dabbing her eyes near party’s end, she said: “It was fabulous walking down memory lane and celebrating in ‘Paris’ ”.
Speaking of tears, a second dear friend of mine also celebrated her 70th birthday in the past month’s span. Again, the pandemic led to a different kind of festivity than originally hoped for.
Instead of a large party, Barbara, affectionately known as “Mama Mac,” had a virtual gathering that featured 70 toasts — one for each candle on her cake — from 70 different family members and friends.*
Asterisk: this was not a Zoom party, but instead the toasts — intimate notes and short letters sharing why each person loves Mama Mac — were collected and published in a keepsake book. She cried. It was wonderful.
All the same, I hope 71 is the new 70 and Mama G can fly to Paris and Mama Mac has a big birthday bash in 2021.
Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Star and can be contacted at [email protected] His books are available at www.WoodyWoodburn.com.
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