My Mother loves her birthday. She has been known to celebrate for over a month. When she turned 60, she demanded sixty presents and Reader, her best friend did it by cleverly wrapping up sixty one-pound coins! So, you can imagine – given her indignation at being considered elderly and therefore told to stay inside for 12 weeks – how impressed she was at having a coronavirus birthday. Not impressed at all. Not at all. Trust me.
Having only moved here from Devon at the end of last year to live with her favourite son-in-law and me, she was resigned to her first birthday in Pompey being a bust.
Let me tell you how I (Tamara) attempted to give my sulky mother the 74th Birthday of her isolation dreams whilst trying to keep it green (ish).
A loose schedule
One of the biggest lessons my depression has taught me is that a day can be a very long time. I made a loose plan for the day and informed the household Official Birthday Celebrations would begin at 1300 hours. They were instructed to be washed, dressed and hungry.
A Surprise Birthday Sign
I wanted to make it feel festive without resorting to plastic balloons. A huge roll of paper that I randomly acquired many moons ago, and knew would one day come in handy, formed the basis of a homemade ‘Happy Birthday’ sign. I might be child-free but I can draw hearts and flowers that a 5-year old could be proud of.
My mother is a woman who likes to take her birthday phone calls whilst reclining in bed with a sweet coffee in hand. I presented to her, again with the pride of a 5-year old, a birthday breakfast consisting of filter coffee bought from Wild Thyme, a glass of Prosecco, a birthday cookie and snowdrops picked from the garden. (I totally acknowledge here our extreme privilege in both living together and with a garden.)
A Treasure Hunt with Booze
At 1300 hours, Official Birthday Celebrations kicked off with me kicking Mother out of the house… with a glass of bubbles… and instructions to maintain 2m from any passer-bys. This was to allow me to rush around hiding clues and prizes for her birthday treasure hunt.
Clues were stolen from the internet and prizes were books and small bottles of booze wrapped in cloth. Clues were solved and prizes located and it set up a playful and fun energy for the rest of the day.
I made cucumber sandwiches and devilled eggs y’all! It was simple but tasty and went down nicely with bubbles. We sat in the garden and I put a tablecloth on to make it feel fancy.
I was aiming for a zero waste meal but that wasn’t possible and I didn’t stress about it. The fact I even found the main ingredients of bread, eggs and cucumbers was a huge win! The bread bag and cream cheese pot can be recycled after the lockdown is lifted. The cucumbers came in a mix of recyclable and non-recyclable plastic but I made sure we ate it all – no squishy cucumbers in the back of the fridge this time, thank you very much! I even made sure the crusts that were cut off to make the sandwiches posh were eaten by the Dutchman later.
The afternoon was spent in a lovely drunken haze playing scrabble. This is the only game my mother will play and she is convinced that the drunker she gets, the better she plays.
She has owned this scrabble set since 1982. I don’t think you can get much more eco than that!
My Mother has recently self-published a book of stories. (I will gloss over the fact she did it through Amazon.) We surprised her with a framed print by the Southsea Gallery of her book cover in early February and I wanted to incorporate her achievement into her birthday celebrations.
A very talented friend and local artist Sarah Sayers Creative designed a digital portrait of Mum in her writing nook. She emailed it to me and I was able to print it and gift it to Mum, with the promise of it being properly printed and framed after the lock-down.
I won’t mention the fact that Mum considers it a gift from her favourite son-in-law, because he gave her his card at the same time as the portrait. It was my idea but I’m not bothered he got all the credit. Not bothered at all.
Dinner and a show
Following two games of scrabble and an alcohol-induced nap, the best Indian food was delivered for further birthday delight. My Mum was gutted not be able to go out for dinner and so Blue Cobra brought dinner to her. We are lucky to have the funds to be able to order this and to support local business during the lockdown. I was pleased to be able to order directly from them as then I know they get all the money, but if that isn’t possible ordering from a delivery service is the next best option.
Finally, we went to the theatre! The National Theatre is making selected performances available on Youtube and we thoroughly enjoyed the performance of One Man, Two Guvnors. It is bloody hilarious and I hope you got a chance to see it. With the ‘National Theatre at Home‘, shows are being released on a Thursday evening and are available for one week and other theatres and cultural venues are also releasing bodies of work.
Surprisingly, there were still queues for the toilets!
The next day, it was back to coronavirus-life-as-usual. We stayed in our own rooms and barely spoke to each other. There is only so much togetherness you can handle in a lock-down. But I overheard her talking to a friend and as she listed the many moments and laughed over finding a book in the washing machine, I felt pleased that I managed to make her Covid-19 birthday one to remember.
And what of you, Dear Reader, have you any tips on how to celebrate and mark those special moments in the current lockdown? We always love to hear from you. Stay safe.