Around the World in 80 Years! – Mom Turns 80 – Part 2

Mom realizing she was having a surprise party last year on her 80th birthday!

This is Part 2 of Around the World in 80 Years – Mom Turns 80 – sharing the story of my mother’s surprise 80th birthday party last year.  

As with any event being planned, last minute details and unexpected situations pop up and you deal with them the best way you can!  In this case, someone told mom about the surprise party!!!  Here is what happened…

The week of the event, we had a lot going on including my youngest daughters birthday on May 31, her performance in The Little Mermaid in Tuscaloosa and a wedding in Auburn.  It was on our way back from my daughter’s show (June 1) that my mother dropped a bomb on me and my husband.  She told me that a cousin (elderly) had called her to wish her a happy birthday and said “your kids are planning a surprise party for you, but don’t tell them I told you!”  I’m thankful I was sitting in the front seat and mom couldn’t see my face!!!  I could see my husband’s face and he was just as panicked looking as I was right then!  That’s when I went into “spin mode,” aka LYING!!!

Mom was puzzled as to why our cousin would say this to her, of course.  I told mom that I had talked to our elderly cousin’s daughter the week before (this is true – I had texted with her when she told me her mother had mild dementia.) and she revealed her mother had mild dementia.  I went on to spin that I had run into our cousins a few weeks before and mentioned mom’s birthday was coming up.  I actually ran into my elderly cousin and two of her daughters the previous fall. Of course, the reason my cousin knew about the party is because she had received an invitation.  I told mom that maybe she got confused with her birthday and something else.  Mom then admitted she felt something was different when she spoke to her.

Once we dropped mom off, I went into damage control!  I texted my sisters and told them that mom may be “thinking” she was getting a party even after all my “spinning” and I needed their help.  My sister Laurie called her the next day to check in with her and mention she and her husband had out of town guests coming that weekend.  This was to throw mom off if she suspected my sisters were coming into town for a surprise party.  Then, I told mom we would go out to dinner for her birthday on Saturday to give her friend Jenine time to arrive from Colorado so she could join us.  I said it would be just family and she seemed happy about it.  I’m pretty sure mom didn’t think I had time to plan anything elaborate because I had spent the last 8 weeks helping her clean out her house!  So…my sisters and I all crossed our fingers and hoped for the best!

I spent the next few days creating photo collages to display around my house as well as putting finishing touches on the photo slideshow.  I found an old hardbound Atlas at a thrift store many years ago and it definitely came in handy for the theme!  The last party prop created was a hot air balloon.  I mean, I did the best that I could with a tri-fold, brown contact paper, burlap and some burlap bags stuffed with newspaper and some helium balloons.  This was to be the photo prop for the party.  (Oh…and it rained after everyone arrived at the party so we didn’t get to use the prop until Sunday!)

Meanwhile…the weekend of the party, family began arriving.  The last to arrive were my daughter, Anna Marie and my nephew, Adam, both from Colorado.  The plan was for me to pick up mom and Jenine at her house and bring them to my house.  I told mom that we needed to stop back by the house and pick up Charlie because he was driving in from Wetumpka, AL, so he would be riding with us.  I pretended to get a text from Charlie and respond but I was really letting everyone at the house know we were on our way!  Of course, when we pulled up there were cars everywhere!  Mom said something about all the cars and I told her our neighbor was having a party.  I said he let us know earlier that day because cars that were going to be all over the cul de sac.  She seemed to accept that.  I pulled up right in front of the house and suggested we go inside where it was cooler to wait for Charlie to arrive.

I walked into the house first and stepped out of the way.  Mom followed and turned toward the living room where everyone had gathered.   As they shouted all “SURPRISE!”  it took mom a minute before she realized what was happening.  The photos my daughters took say it all and I love that they captured this exact moment!  That’s when my sisters all came up to her for hugs.  Mom was clearly overwhelmed, especially when she saw everyone who had gathered to celebrate her milestone day!  Later we asked about whether she suspected we were throwing her a surprise party and she said she had no idea.  I think if she had, she would have said something to her friend Jenine…and Jenine would have called me!

To say we took a lot of photos would be an understatement.  As I said in Part 1 of this story, it had been four years since we had all been together and we weren’t going to let the chance get away from us.  And while the party was the perfect reason to bring us all together, I loved that my sisters , our husbands, and five of my mother’s eight grandchildren, were able to come back to my house on Sunday and spend the day together.  We had plenty of food left over from the party, thanks to Chef Wendy, and even more to catch up on with one another.

So today, on my mother’s 81st birthday, I will take her to lunch and spend the afternoon with her.  I know we will talk about the party and look at the photos together.  Then on Sunday, I’ll treat her to brunch and a show – Red Mountain Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady.

Happy 81st birthday, mom!  I’m glad we were able to surprise you last year!

Loving her birthday sash sent by cousin Lisa Ramirez for mom to enjoy!

Around the World in 80 Years! – Mom Turns 80 – Part 1

Barbara Anne Zuniga – on her 80th birthday

This is a two part post about my mother’s 80th birthday party last year on June 8, 2018.  Tomorrow she turns 81 and I’ve been reliving the party, photos and memories from the preparations to the actual event.  

My mother has never had a surprise party.  She turned 80 years old last June and I thought it was way past time.  So armed with a great theme – Around the World in 80 Years – I got started surprise party planning!

Months earlier, I’d been talking about how mom had a milestone birthday coming up with my youngest sister, Kanista, and she said wanted to be in Alabama for that.  She lives in North Carolina.  That got the ball rolling and we thought – what if we could get all of “the sisters” together, along with their husbands and kids??!!  I think the last time we were all together – me, my sisters and mom – was when my nephew Adam got married in 2015.  So this became a bit of a mission with that realization!  I contacted my sister Helena who lives in Texas and she was on board, as was my sister Laurie who lives in Illinois.  Helena and Laurie put the word out to their adult kids too.  My mother’s friend, Jenine, visits each year from Colorado so I contacted her to make sure she could make her arrangements for the party.  We set the party date for Saturday, June 8 to make it easier for everyone to travel.  Mom’s actual birthday is June 6.

As the guest list started to grow, I began looking for a cozy venue to host the party.  That was probably the biggest headache.  I couldn’t get the invitations ready until I had a place, right?  And I really didn’t want a restaurant for the party because it didn’t feel cozy enough.  I remember calling one place and the lady who answered got a little snarky with me and said “well, you know it’s wedding season…”  Which translated to, “good luck finding what you want, lady!”  That’s when I decided to just have the party at my house.  Done!  On to the invitation…

Mom’s party invitation – the photo is one I found at her house in a box. She was five years old in this picture.

I’d been working at my mother’s house for several weeks helping her clean out when I found a box of old photos.  Honestly, I don’t even know if mom knew they were there.  So I secretly put the box in my car so I could go through and copy them.  That’s where I found the photo I used for the invitation.  Such a sweet picture of mother when she was five years old.  It was perfect!  I debated on getting the invitations professionally printed and then decided to do them myself at home.  In the invitation, I also requested that people send cards with a special memory about mom to me to compile.  My plan was to have a box of memories on index cards that she could pull and read throughout her 80th year.

With the venue and invitations out of the way, I needed to find a caterer.  Again…wedding season…but then I remembered a friend who had started a food delivery business and had just opened a storefront.  I gave her a call and she put me in touch with her chef – Wendy Bowman.  So, this is probably a good time to talk about the theme I chose – Around the World in 80 Years.  This was a nod to mom’s travels over her lifetime.  Born in Oneonta, Alabama, she moved around a lot growing up and eventually ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio where her parents finally settled for two years so she could complete high school.  After that, they traveled to Cambodia for my grandfather’s work and that’s where she met my dad and eventually they got married.  Throw in living in Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Maryland, Chicago and finally Alabama, you can see why the theme fit so well.  When I explained this all to Chef Wendy, she created a wonderful menu incorporating all mom’s travels.  It was wonderful!

When it came to ordering a cake, I knew it had to be special and I knew it had to come from Louise’s Cakes & Supply in Hoover, AL.  Over the years, this little shop has created some beautiful cakes for my family.  The theme was firming up with maps, suitcases, globes and flags. so I asked about getting a suitcase cake made with decals all over it showing places where mom has lived.  I did find a few examples on Pinterest and we worked together to come up with the perfect design.

I mentioned all the places my mother has lived and I wanted to find a way to showcase those places.  That’s when the idea of a directional sign came up like the one they had on MASH – the tv show!  I found arrows in the Target bargain area for weddings and decided to spray paint them tan and brown and then write the locations in red.  My husband made the stand and then we used a nail gun to attach the arrows.  It was the perfect touch and we placed it in our foyer next to an old suitcase that collected all the cards and well-wishes for mom.  I also added string flags around the foyer, hallway, dining room, family room and kitchen that I had left over from a previous event.

My friend, Sherree, who is a whiz with plants and florals, created four distinct arrangements for the party.  The orchid was for my parent’s wedding photo and was used on the dining room table with the food.  There was also a bright floral arrangement for the living room where guests could share memories for mom.  The one I really loved was a desert scene with cactus next to a globe to represent the Southwest and New Mexico.  She really outdid herself!

The final pieces of the party plan?  I wanted music across the decades that meant something to my mother.  My sisters were wonderful working on this and sent so many suggestions from our time as children living in Puerto Rico.  I created a playlist on Pandora called “Mom’s 80th Bday” and we kept adding to it.  We had songs from Andy Williams, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others.  We also included music from musicals like South Pacific and The King & I.  But the most important song to include – Where or When – was my parents song.  When they were dating in Cambodia and would go out to a particular nightclub to enjoy the band, the band leader would see them walk in and immediately start playing that song for them.  It reminds me of a scene out of a Doris Day movie….  We ended up with several hundred songs on that playlist.  I still love listening to it.

Part Two of Around the World in 80 Years shares how I got my mother to the party after the surprise was almost revealed and her reaction to everything.  

 

 

 

Cascarones for Easter!

Cascarones – shown on a Mexican oil cloth tablecloth. The Easter bunny container is one my mom used in her decorating when I was growing up.

Easter is just a few days away and every few years I try to introduce a new fun aspect to our family Easter gathering.  One year it was a brightly decorated chocolate chip cookie cake instead of the usual brownies, cakes and pies.  It turned out to be a huge hit and still remains a crowd favorite with a few family members (ahem…cough…David and Emily!) who have a hard time waiting until after lunch to dig into this sweet treat! Well this year I’m introducing “cascarones” to the family!

So, what’s a cascaron?  It’s basically a hollowed-out egg filled with confetti!  I’ve known about cascarones for quite awhile but I can’t say that they were something we made or enjoyed when I was growing up.  Doing a little more research I discovered they are a Mexican tradition that gained popularity in the Southwest, in particular, at Easter time for many families.  Some say it was like a merging of Latino traditions and the American tradition of dyeing Easter eggs.  Because of the confetti, they are something also frequently used for other celebrations like carnivals, New Years, Cinco de Mayo and even at weddings…although they can also be filled with rice for that particular event!

Looking even farther back in history, cascarones were said to have originated in China where they were filled with scented powders and given as gifts.  Because of this they were very popular with the wealthy.  Marco Polo is said to have been responsible for bringing the eggs to Europe in the 13th century, and again, enjoyed by the wealthy.  They eventually made it to Mexico in the mid-1800s thanks to Emperor Maximilian’s wife, Carlotta.  The lovely scented powders were eventually replaced with confetti and became known as  “cascarones” since “cascara” in Spanish means “shell.”

Cascarones are made by emptying out an egg through a small hole at one end and cleaning it out thoroughly.  After that, you can decorate the eggs by using Easter egg dyeing kits.  When they are dry you can even take it further with more decorating but the best part is adding the confetti to the eggs.  Make a small funnel with paper to use for the eggs to keep the confetti scattering to a minimum!  You can make your own confetti or you can buy it.  Then you take a small piece of tissue and glue it over the hole to keep the confetti in the egg.  That’s it!  Lucky for me though, I found egg cartons of cascarones at a local Walgreens recently.  I was at the checkout counter and there they were!  I decided to pick up two cartons to enjoy on Easter afternoon with my family, all the while thinking, “this should be interesting!”

You may be wondering how cascarones are used.  I figured there had to be a tradition that goes along with these confetti filled eggshells.  It’s said that if you make a wish before you break it over an unsuspecting person’s head, your wish will come true.  Another school of thought is that the good luck goes to the person who gets the egg cracked on their head!  Of course, it’s best to crack the egg in your hand so the confetti pours out on the person rather than actually hitting them with the egg!!!

The other day, I was photographing the cascarones and I gently opened one of the eggs and let the confetti pour out for a shot.  As I took the photo, I saw something beautiful.  I had put the egg down with the paper covering the opening still somewhat attached.  The confetti was scattered in front of it and in that instant, it reminded me of Jesus’ tomb!  I immediately stopped photographing to look up any religious meaning behind cascarones.  I found that eggs are thought to be a symbol of rebirth.  So when the egg is broken and the confetti pours out, it is representative of the resurrection,  Jesus’ empty tomb.  The confetti then symbolizes a celebration of Jesus’ life and rebirth.  So beautiful…I really love this…

This is the photo I took that made me realize there is religious symbolism to cascarones…

So Felices Pascuas/Happy Easter to everyone!  If you celebrate Easter, I hope you enjoy a wonderful day celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus with your families.  And if you made cascarones or enjoyed them in the past, I would love to hear about it!  Meanwhile… let the cascarones crunching begin…and I do hope since this will be a first for my family that they will observe proper cascaron cracking etiquette!!!

Perry’s Pinot and Pork

Everybody who knows me knows how much I love wine. When I first started trying wines I was a huge Merlot fan and slowly moved to Cabernet Sauvignons and finally Pinot Noir. I’m more of a white wine and rose wine enthusiast these days but the pendulum is starting to swing back to reds for me. That’s why I was excited to get an invitation to try the Perry’s Steakhouse April special – Pinot and Pork!

Let me first say how much I love Perry’s wines! I went to a tasting when they launched their new Private Reserve Cabernet and Chardonnay in 2017 and got to hear how they were created from Perry’s Corporate Sommelier, Susi Zivanovic. I found myself wanted to “be” Susi…I mean, could you think of a more perfect job than bringing fabulous tasting wines to people?! She is a wealth of information and I found myself hanging on her every word, that is, between sips of the wine samples!

Last Sunday, my husband and I arrived for and early supper at Perry’s. The April special is a three course meal consisting of your choice of salad, their legendary slow-roasted, caramelizad pork chop and finally, their decadent dessert trio. Let me just say this…make sure you go hungry!!! This combination is out of this world!

Our server, Todd, was so comfortable to talk to and provided lots of tidbits about the food and wine. He raved about the pork chop and even offered suggestions on how to prepare the leftovers, because there would definitely be leftovers with the size of the pork chop they were about to serve! I suggested that maybe Perry’s should post a left-over pork chop recipe flyer for their guests! At this point I couldn’t wait to try the main course. On a side note, I’ve only had the pork chop one other time and it was thanks to my brother-in-law when he was in town a year ago. So having it hot out of the kitchen and watching it being carved at the table was a treat!

We started with salads, Eddie ordered the wedge salad while I had the warm spinach and bacon salad. We had just finished these when the pork chops were brought out on sizzling platters. The young man carving them explained what he was doing…first slicing the ribs, followed by what Perry’s calls the eyelash – a small portion of dark meat and then the loin along with a side of applesauce. He also suggested sampling everything in that order. Wow! That first warm bite was incredible! The caramel flavor along with spices and garlic butter was so rich I just wanted to savor it for a bit.

After that first bite I reached for the Perry’s Reserve Pinot Noir to complete the pairing and it was heavenly! The Pinot Noir is out of Monterey County California and you can definitely get hints of berries and cherry aromas with a very smooth finish. It was created especially to pair with the pork chop and I can see why! I found myself alternating between bites and sips throughout the rest of my meal!

We were so stuffed we barely made it to the loin! I took a few bites and our server Todd returned and asked if I had given up. I said yes and to box the rest up because we still had the dessert trio to go! Luckily for us, the trio is small bite style so we enjoyed bites of cheesecake, creme brûlée and a tasty crunchy chocolate that was like a Nestle crunch bar!

Perry’s is great about offering specials and the month of April is no exception. You can get a glass of the new Pinot Noir for five dollars off the usual $14 during dinner service if you order the pork chop. Or you can get $20 off a bottle of the Pinot which is usually $56. Get the bottle!!! Trust me on this! On Sundays you can opt to get the three course meal that Eddie and I enjoyed for $34.95 and the wine price applies. Sunday supper is from 4-9 p.m. Head over for a delicious time, especially this month (April) and maybe I’ll see you there!

Oh! Forgot to mention that we ordered a side of the steak truffle fries to go with dinner too because well…truffles!

Perfectly Imperfect

What’s your word for the year? I’m sure in January you probably saw social media posts about this question. You may have even selected a word and are living it right now as you read this. I have to admit, when I first found out this was “a thing” to do, I was intrigued. What word would I choose? Would I even be focused enough to follow through with it? Could having a word guide me through my year? What if I changed my mind half way through the year and decided to choose another word? Clearly I wasn’t sure how all this should work! But this past December, I landed upon the “perfect” word. Here’s what happened.

Early in December, I was searching through old photographs to find some pictures of my three kids at Christmastime. On a side note, I had just started working on major photo project with every photograph I’ve ever taken. You remember those days when we used to take photographs and actually take the film to the drug store or places like Costco to get them developed? I was that person who took 10-15 rolls of film at any given event and would also get double prints to share with others! Talk about a pile of photos!!! At the moment, they are all in a heaping piles, sorted by year, in my She Shack just waiting for me to “spark some joy” out of them. Marie Kondo will be very proud of me…eventually…

There was a time though that I kept meticulous photo albums. As soon as I would get my photos back from the photo lab, I would sort through them and write the date taken, where they were taken and who was in them before putting them – IN ORDER – into my albums. When my kids started coming along, it got harder to sort through photos and get rid of any. I mean…these were pictures of my kids! How could I throw even one away, even if it was a little blurry or I didn’t like the way I looked in that photo…my child looked SO ADORABLE! So what I started to do was to select the best picture of the several I would take of a grouping and put the best one on top and tuck the other 2 or 3 behind it and then place them in the albums.

So in December, as I was going through my albums I came across a photo of me with my three kids at Brookwood Mall. Emily was just a baby, Charlie was 5 and Anna Marie just 3 years old. We were trying to get a group shot in front of one of the little Christmas trees that were placed around the mall. Well… it was a struggle to say the least. We couldn’t get all the kids to look forward at the same time and eventually we had three out of four of us so that was the photo that was displayed in the album. Then I pulled the photo out of its slot and two others tumbled. These were the ones that weren’t deemed “perfect” to display. But you know what? The photo I decided to use wasn’t the perfect photo. The photo where I was trying to get Emily to turn around in my arms and my head was turned away and Charlie looked completely bored and Anna Marie was on the ground grinning ear to ear oblivious to what was happening around her…yeah, that was the perfect photo. Actually, it was “perfectly-imperfect.” I even made that comment when I posted it on Instagram.

I thought about this the next few weeks. A lot. How many times do we see social media posts that are perfectly staged and the lighting is beautiful and everyone is shiny and new, so to speak? I know I’m guilty of it…we all are to some degree. But these older photos were really speaking to me about the beauty of imperfection. Think about it. Today we can instantaneously see a photo taken through digital photography or our IPhones. We can retake and retake until we get it just right. But back when I was using film, you had to patiently wait for the film to be developed and then drive to the store to pick up the photos. You really didn’t know what you were going to get until you flipped through the envelope. There was a bit of excitement too when I would do that, hoping that I got just the right photo of an event. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t.

On Christmas Eve this past year, I had all my kids home and it all came full circle. After they all put on their Christmas PJs, we began trying to get a group photo in front of our tree and with their dogs! The struggle was real but oh what a fun struggle it was! I just kept clicking my camera as my kids kept trying to get their dogs to face me for that perfect shot. Well, we got that perfect photo, but you know what? My favorite photo was the one I captured right before that perfect photo. It shows Emily hugging our family dog, Lucy, and Anna Marie and Ryan rubbing their dog Lucia’s head while trying to get him to sit still, and Charlie getting a grip on his dog, Scarlett. It was just like the photo I would have hidden behind the perfect photo in my old photo album days.  But now I realize…this was the perfect best photo.

 

So, my word for 2019? It’s actually two words…perfectly imperfect. But as a friend said this morning when I was telling her this story, you can always hyphenate and make it one word!  That was “perfect” advice.

Fiesta – Celebrating in Full Color / Celebrando a todo color!

This year, Fiesta, Alabama’s largest celebration of Hispanic culture and heritage, turned 16.  It’s incredible to me that this little festival, created so many years ago to award scholarships to Hispanic students, has been around this long!  Every year, the number of people who come out to Linn Park to celebrate the best of all things Hispanic, thrills me!  And then I get nostalgic, remembering previous years and I get excited about the traditions the Fiesta board has kept alive all these years.

This year, the board met early to brainstorm how we would top our 15th anniversary celebration – our Quinceañera.  I love it when the conversation starts, the ideas are tossed out and everyone starts talking at once because of the excitement!  It was like that when we decided on our theme this year – Celebrando a todo color / Celebrating in Full Color!

We’ve always said that when people think of Hispanic culture the one word that is universal in describing it is “colorful.”  It’s a nod to the individual cultures of the many Hispanic countries along with the different foods, music and dance.  It really was the perfect theme for Fiesta!

Each year we try to think of something different to offer our patrons and this year it was all about taking the “Fiesta” to each of the villages.  We engaged local talent to do this, which to me, made the event more personal.  For instance, the mariachi band we invited this year  – Mariachi Premier de America – started performing in the middle of the park at the gazebo.  After they finished their set, they walked to the different villages to sing more songs.  Many of the people working the booths at the different villages don’t always get the opportunity to hear and see what all happens at Fiesta so this was especially nice for them.  I saw a friend a week after Fiesta who was working at the Health & Wellness village and she said the people at their tent were so thrilled to be “serenaded” by the mariachi band and hoped we would do this again next year!  This is how traditions get started…

We also brought a lot of cultural performances back to Fiesta this year.  From the Aztec performers to the traditional Mexican dancers, we had many colorful acts for people to see and enjoy.   The Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama opened Fiesta with their traditional flag ceremony and the march of the Hispanic flags around the park.  My dear friend, Marisela Mendez, got this tradition started several years ago and we love seeing the Girl Scouts – some dressed in their uniforms and some dressed in traditional Hispanic outfits – participate in Fiesta each year.  It’s a personal highlight for me each year.  Next, Banda Azteca Tonantzin from St. Francis Xavier Church in Birmingham drew quite a crowd for their first appearance in front of the main stage.  I don’t believe we’ve ever had anything quite like this at Fiesta and I hope they’ll come back again because there were moments when I was quite moved watching this group perform.

One of the best moments this year was the last song on the main stage.  Our headliner, Frankie J, was performing and started pulling those of us at the back of the stage towards him.  The rest of the board came up too and we danced along with Frankie J. as he sang us to the end of Fiesta 2018.  It was one of those spontaneous moments that you couldn’t recreate if you tried and the entire board walked away elated about this ending.  There are a few videos floating around of us all on stage with Frankie J. and I’ve seen them several times.  I love that those are available for us to relive this wonderful moment from Fiesta 2018!  And on that note, time to start planning Fiesta 2019!

The Vintage Beaded Sweater Made in Hong Kong

This cashmere beaded sweater came from Hong Kong in the 1950s – my dad bought it for my mother on their honeymoon.

I have a beautiful vintage beaded sweater that belonged to my mother.  She gave it to me many years ago when she was going through some old clothes and I tucked it away to preserve it.  It was already showing signs of age and I didn’t want it to get worse, so I bought a good garment bag and stored it in my guest room closet.

This week I was at my favorite thrift store and was about to leave when I made one more pass through the jacket section.  That’s when I spotted it…an off-white colored beaded sweater with a Hong Kong label.  It was gorgeous and in incredible shape and only $4.99…and as I picked it off the rack, that’s when all the memories rushed back to me about the beaded sweater from my mother.

After my parents got married in Cambodia, they went to Hong Kong for their honeymoon.  My dad was always insistent about buying quality items.  I remember one Christmas when I was in high school, I wanted a small stereo and I knew money was tight so found one at a discount place for about $50 and showed it to my mother.  When Christmas rolled around, I didn’t get that discount place stereo.  Instead, my dad went and bought a Magnavox stereo complete with stand and headphones!  I had that stereo for years too.  So I can just imagine my dad in Hong Kong with his new bride making sure it was a memorable experience.  I think this is when he bought mom two beaded sweaters…one in black and one in off-white.  Both were cashmere and both were stunning!  I remember as a little girl putting them on and they were – still are – quite heavy!  The detail in the beads was always amazing to me.  I could not imagine the time it took to create these masterpieces and I would turn it over and over admiring the detail of the beaded design.

These sweaters symbolized glamour to me.  When I tell people about my parents, where and how they met in Bangkok, and then tell them about their wedding in Cambodia, people always comment on how exotic and exciting their lives sounded.  Growing up I loved looking at my dad’s photos of their time in Cambodia and Thailand and also the photos he took of my mother. before all us kids came along.  I especially loved the photos of mom all dressed up for nights out with dad.  My mother had the glamour factor going for her big time in my little girl eyes.  She would wear her blonde hair up in a French twist and dress up in one of her hand-made (to fit her figure) Thai silk dresses or suits.  She would then add her favorite black peau de soie spike heels and on cooler nights out, she would add one of the beaded sweaters.  She looked like Grace Kelly to me.

I know my dad probably took many pictures of my mother wearing these beaded sweaters but I’ve only come across one in the slides that I’ve scanned and archived.  In this photo, mom is at a dinner party in Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s wearing a blue Thai silk dress, the peau de soie shoes I mentioned, and the black beaded sweater.  There is also a photo of mom and her best friend Gladys and another woman (not sure who she is) before they left for the party.  The more I looked at that photo the more I think Gladys is wearing the off-white sweater!  The photo is a little overexposed and while I worked on it to see if I could identify the sweater, I wasn’t able to say for sure.  Still…mom and Gladys were very close and don’t girlfriends share clothes at times?  I’m going with the idea that Gladys IS wearing the sweater.

It’s funny how a piece of clothing can bring back such memories.  I need to talk to my mother about these sweaters again.  We’ve talked before but I need a refresher and I always love watching her face when she reminisces about these early years.  Meanwhile…I’m still on the hunt for a photo of mom in the off-white sweater!