There's Mama with my brother Jeff behind her on the left side of the picture.
Mama's sister Juanita is behind her and that is my cousin Rhonda on the far right. She's the one who was born on the same exact day that I was born. And that's Rhonda's little girl Andrea peaking over my mother's shoulder.
Mama looks so happy in these pictures.
When we were driving home at the end of the party, she told me something that shocked me.
We were chatting about the party and about how her sister Geneva's house was filled with family and friends and people who loved her. And then, very calmly she said...
"You know, that was the first birthday party I've ever had."
I couldn't believe it. Her parents never threw her a birthday party. My father never threw her a birthday party. And somehow, in my 37 years as her son, I had never thrown her a birthday party.
I was ashamed that I didn't know that. Ashamed that I had never taken the time to throw her a birthday party and show her how much I love her.
But Mama wasn't blaming me for never having thrown her a party or for not knowing she had never had a party. She was thrilled with the party and was lifted out of the depression that I could tell she had been sitting in for quite some time. As she said...
"You always know exactly what I need, when I need it."
This may have been my mother's first birthday party in her 60 years on this planet, but it will most definitely not be her last.
My favorite moment that day came when the party guests had left and it was just Mama, me and Geneva with her family.
Now, understand that my extended family does indeed know that I'm gay, but it is never discussed, never brought up in conversation. As Mama says about Southerners and their ability to deny nearly everything, "If we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist, now does it?"
That said, we were about to leave to share a meal at a local Chinese restaurant and Geneva had some fruit from a fruit tray she bought for the party that she wanted my mother to take home with her.
Geneva didn't want the fruit to go bad in the car while we were at the restaurant, so she thought it might be better to keep the fruit in her refrigerator while we were out. What she said was...
"You wanna just leave the fruit here?"
I looked at Mama and said, "What did she call me?"
Without missing a beat, Mama said, "She called you a fruit."
We smiled and laughed but NOBODY ELSE thought it was funny. They ignored what we had just said. And that made me and Mama laugh even harder.