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After Three Decades

Bill and I celebrated our daughter’s 30th birthday this past month. Maybe I’d better rephrase that. Bill and I acknowledged our daughter’s 30th birthday. Annie did the celebrating with her friends in Seattle.

We were originally on the docket to participate on-site in the month-long recognition of her three decades on this earth. Our Annie is a meticulous scheduler. So, she selected the Columbus Day three-day weekend as Mom and Dad’s assigned time to visit and to do the parental birthday niceties: gifts, dinner, geocaching, and, of course, The Check.

We looked at the economy after receiving our invitation to come to Seattle where Annie suggested that Dad could even take in a Seahawks’ game. We also looked at the Seahawks’ success so far this season and figured we could probably afford a few scalper tickets.

Weighing the options, however, we declined Annie’s invitation, explaining that finances were too unsettled right now to spend nearly a thousand dollars on a weekend trip.

Annie understood.

Besides, she had already planned a festive series of other celebrations, even her "surprise" party on Friday night of Birthday Weekend and her self-styled party on Saturday night of Birthday Weekend. She planned to spend Sunday of Birthday Weekend (which was her actual birthday) hanging out with a couple of friends from high school. On Monday, the day after Birthday and Birthday Weekend, she would take the day off from work and rest.

Sounds good to me.

While Annie was making party plans and carrying them out, I was spending a lot of time thinking about our "baby," whom Bill dubbed as "Precious," turning 30. Many, many memories came drifting back. For five days prior to her birthday, I posted photos of Annie on my www.slightdetour.com blog, often with teary eyes and with an incurable case of maternal nostalgia.

I also reflected on how Grandma’s, Mom’s and daughter’s first 30 years have differed both historically, technologically and culturally. These frequent moments of reverie satisfied my sentimental needs, but they also dramatically illuminated the growth and bonds transforming our three generations from mother-daughter adversaries into good friends who have grown to respect each other’s differences and to fully appreciate each other’s unique, strong-willed personalities.

I also got to thinking about where I was personally at 30 and where Annie’s grandmother was at the same milestone in her life. Such plunges into the past reveal tangible changes, subtle differences in attitudes and, refreshingly, a host of similarities running through the family line.

At 30, my mother had just purchased our North Boyer farm with $7,500 cash. She had three rambunctious kids, 40 acres, rows of broken-down fences, a few cows and a horse named Largo. Her first husband had a drinking problem, so she worked at times for 75 cents an hour at Sandpoint Cleaners to make ends meet.

With no mother of her own for guidance (her mother died when she was 3), Mother received occasional advice from our Aunt Louise (her foster cousin) in far-off Michigan.

She had moved around the country and had grown up and graduated from Catholic boarding schools, including Nazareth College where she majored in art and French.

Relatively speaking, this was her first taste of family life, and, with no model to follow, she did her best to teach us right from wrong, which was a challenging job at the time.

Mother also took time out daily to call friends, standing in the living room, at the crank-up phone on the wall. We always heard her tell the Mountain View phone company operator, "382, please." That was Ardis Racicot’s number. When not talking to Ardis, her mornings were generally spent changing loads of laundry at the wringer washing machine while listening to crooners, Vaughn Monroe and Patti Page, or to her favorite soap opera "Ma Perkins" on good ol’ KSPT-1400 radio station.

She cooked three high-calorie meals a day. We ate rich whipped cream from our guernsey cow Bossy and big steaks or roasts from steers butchered by our neighbor, Mr. Clarence Best. Harry Truman was President, and the McCarthyism/Communist-scare was the hot news.

I rather doubt that Mother had either a surprise party or planned one of her own when she turned 30. She was too busy chasing after us and the cows.

Fast forward to the late ‘70s. When I turned 30, I listened to John Denver and Anne Murray on the radio or our record player, watched Archie Bunker malign The Meathead, and followed the Jenny and Greg romance on my favorite TV soap "All My Children." I was getting used to Jimmy Carter as President.

We had just taken a 30-year mortgage with Bank of Idaho to purchase our ten-acre farm on Great Northern Road. Price: $35,000. I recall eating our share of macaroni and cheese or top ramen. Cool Whip, purchased from M & J Food Market on North Fifth, replaced Bossy’s whipped cream.

I had just become a mother for the first time two months before turning 30. Daycare became a necessity so that I could continue my teaching career and pay for the daycare, the food, and monthly mortgage while Bill paid for our cars and utilities. I had a mother just a mile away for guidance but not for babysitting.

We used a dial-up phone, and the digits for local numbers had increased to seven. I don’t remember a big celebration for my 30th birthday. That summer I was changing diapers and trying to get a garden to grow.

In 2008, my daughter has a new i-phone, which supports her active life in many ways. She can send us photos from mountaintops. She can identify background music at dancing clubs by recording a few seconds of a song, learn its name and download it for further enjoyment. She can find her way to restaurants and check out what’s good and how much it costs when going out to eat in an unfamiliar setting. The phone has so many options, totally unthought of in 1951 when Mother was cranking into her conversations, that Bill jokingly asked Annie if she could actually use it to call people.

Annie’s Boise State University degree has thus far helped her find employment as a Marriott Hotel front-desk clerk and as a customer-relations specialist at Groundspeak, Inc. (creators of the game of geocaching).

Annie has no mortgage, but she hopes that her 401K is worth something when she’s 60. She rents an apartment in Seattle, walks to work, plays on a soccer team, takes frequent trips with friends or travels to faraway places like New Zealand and Hawaii all by herself.

I don’t think she eats much whipped cream, but I know she’s a sushi fan. A Nirvana and Pearl Jam follower, she often attends live contemporary concerts in Seattle. She also records her lifelong favorite soap opera "General Hospital," and watches it before going to work every morning.

All three generations from Grandma to Mom to Annie love politics and have supported the same Presidential candidate this year. We jump at the chance to travel. We’re independent, strong-willed souls with healthy giggles, and we appreciate family. Plus, we admire each other.

And, yes, Annie now plans her own birthday parties.

Considering these observations of my daughter’s entrance into the 30-somethings and as I plod through my own 60-somethings, I can’t wait to see how lifestyles have changed when Annie turns 60 and I’ve started the decade leading to the century mark well after Grandma Tibbs has turned 100.

It should be interesting, especially if I still have a memory. And, if so, you can bet that I’ll follow my daughter’s lead and plan my own birthday party.

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Author info

Marianne Love Marianne Love is a freelance writer and former English teacher who enjoys telling the stories of her community. She has authored several books, the latest of which is "Lessons With Love."

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