Good genes, a healthy childhood living on a farm, lack of junk food and a positive attitude have all contributed to my mother's 102 years of life on this earth.
Mary Kierspe (Mom) recently celebrated this milestone with an intimate party of close family only — about 41 of us — in Fort Wayne. Only her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were invited.
What do you do to observe so many good years? Well, that was a challenge, but the creative people in our family put their heads together and came up with a fairly simple but fun plan. Of course, there were the invitations, but thanks to the computer, it was easy to send out a “hold the date” notice via email while we zeroed in on exact plans. The date was chosen and then simple invitations were printed on fancy balloon-filled paper from an office store.
Ah, how the computer has simplified (or complicated?) our lives since Mom was born in 1911.
A simple luncheon was held in a location that was easily reached by mostly everyone, and instead of a potluck, we eased travelers' tasks by having a good caterer help us out. But the challenge was: How do you keep people ranging from 4 years old to 102 entertained while making the birthday girl the center of attention?
We decided to have a Competitive Quiz after lunch while everyone was still gathered around the six tables that filled the intimate room — a quiz about the birthday girl. The guests were divided into two teams by table, and each team had a representative come to the front of the room for every question and hit the bell when they knew the answer, just like “Family Feud” on television. This time, however, the questions were about Mom.
Who was president when she was born? Taft. Where was she born? Woodburn. How old was she when she got married? Eighteen. How long were she and Grandpa married? Sixty-nine years. Well, you get the drift.
When the young ones were at the “bell,” the questions were easier. One moment of true glee hit the room when a 6-year-old, facing a 20-year-old cousin, was asked, “What is Grandma's favorite card game?”
Well, Mom is an avid bridge player, but the youngest child answered, “Go Fish!” The emcee turned to Mom for her decision: Was this answer correct? To the delight of the crowd, Mom answered, “Yes. Go Fish is my favorite card game.”
The Byers family from Chatham, Ill., attended, so photos were taken of the four generations of women — 102-year-old Mary, her daughter (me), granddaughter Mary Carlson Byers and great-granddaughter Marissa Byers.
It was an awesome day. In a very gracious speech, the birthday girl thanked everyone for coming, and it reminded me of a few words she had said when she and my dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Mom had stood up, held out her arms in a gesture that encompassed everyone in the room, and spoke, “When Ray and I got married, our marriage license cost $2.. Just think … we got all of this for only $2.”
Happy birthday, Mom. Stay tuned for birthday party 103 — she has good genes.