Happy Birthday, Mom!

Reading time: 4 1/2 minutes

My mom turns 49 again today. Good thing I studied English more than math so I believe her. Like I do every year. I’ll try to ask her age when I take her to lunch, but I know that question will stay behind my lips. I also know that after I tell her she can pick the restaurant, she’ll say why don’t we go to Bread Company and you can get that soup you like. Ma at the airportShe’ll be serious. She’d choose a place to make someone else happy. She’s predictable in all the good ways you want a person to be predictable. Like knowing you always have a place to go home to no matter where you are in the world or what part of your world just caved in. So, Mom…

We won’t go to the place with the soup I like. This is your day, Mom. You’ve already treated me enough for one lifetime. I still have a lot of catching up to do.

Here’s something I think about a lot that I probably won’t bring up during lunch today. How the heck did you put up with me some days? Seriously, some days I see myself in my kids and I can barely stand to be in the same room. I wonder if you knew you were successful at parenting while you were in the middle of it. Because I spend the majority of my parenting moments questioning what I’m doing and having absolutely no idea about the right answer. When I think about myself at the age of one of my kids, I wonder how you were at my current age. Perspective is a funny thing.

“Happy Birthday, Mom!”

Fond memories I will bring up begin with the Appian Way. Remember Game Night at the Frain house, one particular post-midnight and you were sleeping on the sofa while the rest of us were still playing Trivial Pursuit. Some of us didn’t care who won at this point, we just wanted to go to our homes and sleep. Your team landed on yellow for History and got a potential game-winning question, which went something like this: Name the ancient Roman highway extending from Rome to Brundisium. Groans came from around the table as we realized the game wouldn’t end yet, when suddenly, your sleepy voice from the couch muttered “The Appian Way.” We were stunned when, turning the card over, realized it was the correct answer.Ma welcome home

I remember camping before glamping was even a thing. We floated the White River in Michigan once, and while I remember this moment, I don’t remember the exchange between you and Dad but I have it written in a Frain Annual so it must be true. We’ll see if you remember. You put your paddle in the water and it instantly broke in two. Dad thought you were trying to get out having to help paddle the canoe and when you stated that your paddle was broken, he answered with “Honey, that’s the way they make them.” I don’t remember (and didn’t write down) your response, but I distinctly remember Dad getting out of your canoe in waist-deep water and walking back to get a new paddle. Two minutes in, and he’s already soaking wet!

Since the statute of limitations is up on this one, I remember when I lied after Mrs. Hanlon caught me smoking in eighth grade and apparently called you immediately. I denied it, saying it was only a stick in my mouth and for the longest time thought I fooled you. It wasn’t until I had kids of my own who think I believe them that I realized I hadn’t fooled you at all. You just allowed me to think so. I’m not ready to admit to all the other stuff yet.

One of the funny things about our house I’ll always remember is the church pew downstairs. Growing up – and I learned Michael had the exact same impression – I thought everybody had a church pew in their house sure as they had a television set. I don’t know how long it took me to realize the error of my thinking, probably embarrassingly long, so I won’t dwell on it. I’m sure I’ve heard the story, but you’ll have to remind me at lunch where that church pew came from.

I’ll remember these two recent outings when we started exploring neighborhoods for my next story setting. First, our lunch on Cherokee Street where we dodged the dancers and ultimately ate at the counter next to the doppelganger of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain. And then a couple weeks ago when my friend, Tim Dewald, called while we were on our way to lunch. Remember this?

Me (answering the Bluetooth in the car): Hey Tim, you’re on speaker and I’m with my mom so no dirty jokes.

Tim: I’m calling bullshit on that.

You: Hi, Tim.

Tim: Oh! Hi, Mrs. Frain, this is Mike Harris.

You’re awesome, Mom! I love you. I’m listening to the Clancy Brothers as I write this around 3 a.m. Liam Clancy is belting out Those Were the Days. Let’s raise a glass or two at lunch and make some new memories. We’ll sing and dance, forever and a day!

11 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Mom!

  1. Eloquent, as always, John. Your mom is a wonderful, fun, quirky lady. I haven’t stopped in to see her in a very long time, but never fail to think of her, your dad, Judy, and the rest of you every time I walk up or down Yeatman and get to the Greely intersection. Very fond memories of the Greely Gamg days. Thanks for posting, and tell your mom happy birthday for me. And tell her Lynn Heidbrier says hello, too.

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  2. Happy Birthday, Grandma! And you, John Frain, told me you never took one puff of a cigarette in your entire life! So must have been a stick afterall.

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  3. Clearly was a stick. Absolutely. We questioned Mrs. Hanlon’s eyesight for years after this incident. I think she used to cheat on line calls in tennis too, but let’s keep that between you and me and the laptop.

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  4. Great blog John. Tell your mom happy birthday. I remember the church pew in your house but never questioned it. I’d love to hear the story behind it. I hope you had a great lunch with your mom!

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    1. Lunch was great, thanks for asking. And — easy to predict — we ended up at Bread Company. I tried (and tried and tried) to talk her out of it. Insisted we go somewhere else. But she’d hear none of it. I asked her about the church pew. Had never heard the story myself. I have to verify a couple things, and I’ll post it here later. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. John, I’m recently 48 myself, so your mom and I are very close in age. We won’t extrapolate to the question of my being old enough to be your mom, but I do think a cup of soup and some bread sound good. One suspects your mom rather enjoys it too …

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    1. Confession, Diane. When I said my mom turned 49 … again — I was making the claim that I’m not working the math. I’m not sure how many times she’s turned 49 now, but it’s more than I’m gonna dare count. And I won’t check her birth certificate!

      And yes, she did enjoy the soup and bread. As did I. One is never too old or too young to enjoy good soup and bread, eh!

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  6. Oh I was definitely winking, writing that. 🙂

    I’m actually of the opinion that I earned every minute of my age – would not be nor claim to be younger, because then I’d lose the “I saw all the good concerts” fun. Oddly, the men in my life have been much more likely to obfuscate their ages!

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