A very special woman in my life turns 83 this week — my mother, Anne. Full of spunk and fire, grace and enthusiasm, she is the essence of youth despite having 83 candles on her birthday cake.
An avid fan of the performing arts all her life, my mom took up ballroom dancing when she was 55, and is now a living legend in Boston’s Argentine Tango community where she is adored for being a beautiful dancer and a gracious “tanguera.”
Her free spirit and effervescent air defy any hints of aging, and she is admired by all women under 83 because she gives us hope that we too can be vibrant and spry and still wear high heeled shoes and sexy clothes no matter how many years go by.
It is little wonder that Mom has the spirit of a twenty-something and that her motto for her birthday gala two years ago was “81 is the new 18.” She has never believed in limits.
When I was a little girl, instead of admonishing me to be cautious, she always encouraged me to push myself. When I’d say, “Watch me!” as I jumped and jigged around like all kids do, I never heard “Be careful!” Instead I heard, “That’s great, but let me see you do it again, only this time jump higher” or “run faster” or “do it with your arms over your head!”
Of course, this bought her time, as she could sit back and relax while I burned up all my childhood energy running, leaping, climbing and diving, ever higher, further and faster — with toes pointed, for style, of course.
She has always had a passion for travel, and she hits the road with the same intense eagerness. When I was growing up, I loved hearing her travel stories from the year and a half she spent in France doing a college year abroad.
Between semesters, she traveled around Europe on her own with a rucksack (they weren’t called “backpacks” in 1949), and she stayed in youth hostels. From learning to ski in the Alps to sharing a late night meal of couscous with a group of Moroccans in a hostel, her tales were exotic and exciting.
Traveling Europe solo at 19 made her a savvy budget traveler for life, and she passed it on to us kids by taking us hosteling on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. We vacationed in dormitory style housing with travelers from overseas! Later, in retirement, she took many trips to New York City and Hawaii, always staying in hostels where she would meet folks from all over the world.
At 79 she decided to travel internationally once again, but she felt she had outgrown the hostel scene. Always a city girl, her dream was to go to Paris, see some sights and practice her French while sipping coffee in street-side Parisian cafes. What fun!! Next thing I knew, she had hopped on a plane and rented a tiny apartment for a month in the heart of the action by the Seine.
After she arrived in Paris, the first email I received from her was truly breathless with excitement. Emailing me from a 24-hour internet cafe as the sun was just beginning to lighten the city streets, she described how she had discovered a huge outdoor, all-night Argentine Tango festival in an enormous city park. She had tripped the light fantastic amid hundreds of dancers into the wee hours of the morning, and now it was dawn…!
Wow!! Every year since then she has returned to Paris for three months, on her own, suitcase and dance shoes in hand. Each year I can’t wait to receive her daily travel emails. I find my mouth agape and my head shaking in absolute wonder as I read every one.
On these Paris jaunts, every hour of every day is chock full of thrills, from taking guided city walking tours and canal tours to going on outings with new friends to stopping by the Louvre or watching vintage French films in the afternoon to attending ballet and opera performances in the evening to dancing the night away whenever the opportunity arises.
And, of course, being a lifelong budget traveler, she does it all for next to nothing.
All my life I have turned to my mom for inspiration to be brave, to be daring, to be fearless and to be free. I hope you will too. Seize the day — and go have an adventure!
Happy Birthday, Mom — “83’s your Prime”!!