Fun, delicious food, holiday cheer, late-night board games, movies, hugs, and plenty of rain. We had to say goodbye to the two of them, but not to the rain. We returned home to a rainy Phoenix. The rare rainy day in the desert is becoming the norm this season. We welcome it, and so do my flowers. Rain or not, we look forward to saying so long to 2019 and saying hello to 2020.
In four nights, we will be ushering in 2020, dressed in 1920s style clothes at a ’20s-themed party. As I was preparing our ’20s attire for the evening, my mind wondered to thoughts of my maternal grandmother, Evelyn (Rippy) Parker. My grandmother was born in 1920 in Arkansas, nearly 100 years ago. She departed this world during her 87th year and while I miss her, I am so grateful to have many fond memories of laughing with her. Evelyn loved to tell jokes, or at least the beginning of jokes. She usually forgot the punch line, but her lapse did not hamper our laughter. She also shared stories of growing up on a farm in Arkansas, and although some of those stories took place during the depression, her stories highlighted humorous moments of her life as a farm girl. Raised as a farm girl, her true essence craved the pace of city life. She loved fashion, she loved to dance and flirt, and she loved being in the center of activity. She also loved to gamble. Perhaps I will share some of her funny farm stories on June 20, 2020 – the day before her 100th birthday. For now, I am going to share a cherished Evelyn story that took place on New Year’s Eve. The year was 1996 and I was living in Henderson, Nevada, with my husband and young daughter.
Our home was only twenty minutes from the Las Vegas strip. The distance between our community and the strip gave us just enough distance to carry on lives that weren’t focused on the lure of quick cash, but if we stood at the top of the hill in our backyard in the evening, we could see the glow of “sin city.” That glow attracted my grandmother and her gambling sidekick, my mother-in-law, Judi. The twinkling neon compelled Judi and Evelyn to leave the Sonoran Desert and travel five hours in Judi’s maroon Buick to the Mojave Desert. Sure, they came to see us, their family of three living in Nevada, but they may have been a little less motivated to make the drive if our destination did not include a night out in the Gambling Capital of the World.
Two days before the new year, our adventurous matriarchs arrived with wrapped presents and wallets that they were ready to hand over to the casinos. We visited, ate dinner, and opened gifts, then the two Arizona grandmas were ready to buckle up in the Buick and visit the street of neon lights. Those flashing lights transformed the two elders into energetic twenty-one-year-olds. On any given day, neither of those ladies were up for the task of taking long walks. My grandmother had knee and foot issues and my mother-in-law had severe scoliosis that impeded her mobility, but there was something about those lights that suspended their disabilities and their pain long enough for them to stroll across carpeted casino floors and between brightly lit casino walkways; a youthful elixir it seemed. They were the young ones ready to seek and explore. We were the old married couple. They ventured toward the strip and we put our toddler, and ourselves, to bed.
The next morning, I was relieved to see the Buick parked in the driveway as I set out to prepare for the New Year’s Eve cheer that was to take place later that afternoon. My grandmother found me in the kitchen making breakfast. We talked about their grand adventure from the night before. We talked about the casinos they had visited and the sights on the strip. Knowing my grandmother’s interest in the male gender, I teased her about finding slot machines next to attractive men. She didn’t respond, but I did see a sparkle in her eye and a smile that revealed more than spoken words. As my grandma talked about her evening, she talked about how she hadn’t won anything, and rather than wallow in regret or self-pity, my grandmother began to laugh, and soon we were both laughing – hysterically. In between the uncontrollable laughter she said she was one of those old people who would need to eat beans for the rest of the month because she had gambled away her SS check in the first week. She elaborated her fable, describing what the rest of her month would look like because of losing too much money the night before. Each scenario of fabricated misery became more enhanced as she continued to embellish her desperate situation. As her month of misery grew more desperate our laughter escalated and echoed through the house, signaling others to find out what was so funny. Soon we were all laughing at the thought of my never-missed-a-meal grandmother living on only beans for the rest of the month.
We poured champagne and toasted the New Year’s with our gregarious Italian neighbors, while our daughter and their two children ate smores and lit sparklers. Kept warm by our fire-pit, we laughed into the morning hours. When it was time to say “So long for now” to the Arizona-bound broke grandmas, my husband and I stood on the carport waving goodbye. Any sadness we felt about saying goodbye was quickly replaced with joy when we burst out laughing at the image of the two little ol’ ladies driving away. Where did they go? Neither of their heads were visible from behind the car. They both had disappeared into the seat and it appeared that the car was driving itself.
I smile when I think of the two of them meeting again in heaven. They are certainly laughing and causing some playful mischief. I wish I could watch the short-haired pair disappear into the horizon just one more time. For now, I have my memories and those memories still make me laugh. I am also reminded that we are never too old to seek and explore and, most importantly, we are never too old to laugh at ourselves.
Happy New Year’s to you! I hope your evening is full of laughter and that the memories you make on New Year’s Eve will keep you laughing for years to come. Michele
Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton.