Alice’s Wild Time

August 26, 2013

“I’m having a wild time today,” Alice said, as Meg and I entered her apartment to join her on her 98th birthday. She held an envelope on which she’d written her notes about the wildness so far. First she talked about all the waving that had gone on in the dining room.

Alice wavingThen she consulted her list to tell us who had wished her a happy day.

Alice checks her birthday list

Lupe, one of her favorite caretakers, had hugged her when she delivered medications.

“Then Nadine, of course,” she said, “wished me a happy birthday when I sat down to eat.” She spoke as if this would naturally be the obligation of her dining partner. (Things are better between them, but she’s still not thrilled with Nadine.)

“And then the Robe Lady.” She looked over at Meg and explained. “I call her that because she wears long gowns and robes all the time.”

The Robe Lady has fascinated Alice ever since she moved in not long ago. When she first arrived, Alice described her clothing to me. “They’re not really nightgowns and they aren’t evening gowns either, but they’re always long.”

I pictured something like this: gown lady

Or maybe this:
robe lady

Alice can see the length of these outfits, but the woman’s face is blurry. One day recently someone showed up and sat in the Robe Lady’s place in the dining room. She wore a baseball cap, a sweatshirt, and baggy Bermuda shorts.

Alice couldn’t make out who this person was. Was it the Robe Lady? Or an interloper sitting in the Robe Lady’s place?

“Hi, Alice,” the strange presence said, sending poor Alice into a tizzy. Whoever it was knew her name.

The Robe Lady did not show up that day to ask this strange apparition to move out of her chair, so perhaps it had actually been the woman herself, expressing a more sporty side to her personality.

This mystery has never been solved.

Anyway, the Robe Lady, who had been dressed in her familiar flowing garb, wished Alice a happy birthday.

Next to give her greetings was the Big Man.

“In fact, five men wished me happy birthday today,” she said, pleased to be still reeling them in. “Including Sam, the man who used to walk Little Edie back to her room. And Elena, one of the caretakers, came over and hugged me and said ‘Celebrate!‘”

But the highlight of the dining room came when Mirabel sat down at her piano. “She played ‘You Are My Sunshine’ just for me,” Alice said.

This song has special meaning for Alice. Mirabel has no idea what the meaning is, but I do. When he was four years old, her only child at the time, Bruce, had to go into the hospital for eye surgery, Alice came to visit him one day and could hear her little boy as soon as she entered the corridor. She got to his room and saw him sitting up on the bed, bandages over his eyes, singing “You Are My Sunshine” in his small, high, clear voice.

Here they are, shortly after one of the bandages was removed and he was allowed to come home from the hospital and sit on the bed and read with his adoring mother.

Alice and Bruce

Alice and Bruce

After Mirabel finished playing the song, she came over to the table where Alice and Nadine were sitting and pulled up a chair next to Alice. She took out a small wand and dipped it into some soapy water. Then she proceeded to blow bubble after bubble after bubble, and she and Alice watched them float one by one over to Nadine’s side of the table and pop.

“They were big,” Alice said. She demonstrated:

Alice_bubble size

We looked at the birthday bouquet Ketzel had brought Alice the day before when she’d visited with her dog, Milo, aka Smilo. Spectacular flowers:

Ketzel's flowers
Alice and Milo:

Alice and Milo

Next, Alice showed Meg and me all of the cards she’s received so far, including this snazzy ric-rac creation from our friends Mike and Gail back in Iowa.

Gail's cardGail always makes inspired cards for Alice’s birthday and other occasions. For example, here’s a Lawrence Welk tribute she sent Alice a few months ago in honor of Alice’s connection with the great LW:

Handmade Valentine's Day card from book materials.

Gail’s Valentine’s Day card for Alice.

Alice decided she didn’t want to go shopping because she gets too tired pushing her walker, so she sent Meg and me off to the mall with a list. Kathy joined us and helped us look through racks of mostly unwearable clothing at Macy’s and Sear’s. We found the slacks Alice wanted and then I bought this sweater for her at Eddie Bauer. (Later, after Alice tried it on, she said she wouldn’t wear it because the neck was “much, much, much too low!”)


After Meg and I got back to the apartment with the goods, Alice opened presents. First there were the Christmas penguins Meg found at Tuesday Morning. It didn’t matter that the fat little creatures were all bundled up for Christmas. Alice loves penguins and she loves nesting dolls.
All together:

Big nesting doll


Nesting dolls open

Alice and Meg_nesting dollsAlice and Meg

Alice_nesting dolls

Katharine arrived with a special gift, a corsage crafted by a woman named Dale, who knew someone from Alice’s old turf, Ames, Iowa. Alice said she’d never in her life had a corsage. It made her happy in a shy kind of way.


Dale had told Katharine, “Oh, Ames, Iowa. I know exactly what to do.” And she did.

Alice's Birthday Corsage from Katharine

Katharine also brought a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Alice called it “the cutest cake” she’d ever seen.

The cutest cake ever

There was a lot of carrying on over this exquisite cake.

What to wish for?

What to wish for?

Alice with cake_more

Kathy dropped in, too, and it started to feel even more like a party.Alice and KathyAlice and Kathy - a chatAlice got way too busy to talk on the phone:

Hello. Good-bye. Call me later.

Hello. Good-bye. Call me later.

She had more presents to open. There was a “lotion bar” with a citrus fragrance, an idea whose time has come as far as Alice is concerned. Meg said she chose this item because it reminded her of some of Alice’s concoctions. Alice could have invented the lotion bar, just as she invented her own make-up recipe.

Alice 1_Katharine

She read her cards, every word:Alice 3_KatharineShe looked at baby pictures and baby movies on Katharine’s iPhone and thought that was amazing.

Watching iMovie on iPhone

Pretty soon the sofa looked like this and we were all eating cake and looking at baby pictures and joining in Alice’s Wild Time.Kathy, Katharine and Meg on Alice's sofa

And so it was that Alice turned 98 years old surrounded by friends.

SandalsShe said it was the best birthday so far.

Saying good-bye to Katharine

P.S. Not everyone gets to be interviewed by a skilled radio interviewer for their 98th birthday, but Alice and Ketzel are long-time friends. Ketzel did an interview during her visit with Alice on Friday that I will always treasure.

Part One

Part Two

Ketzel with her mother, Roz, too soon gone at 93.ketzelgarden_roz_430-2

Make your own bubbles for blowing.

Why the heck not? Celebrate!

19 Responses to “Alice’s Wild Time”

  1. Happy Birthday, Alice! We all love you!


  2. Pene Fedro Says:

    That was a great blog post. Wish your Mom a belated birthday from Montana. Tell her I am Gail’s sister.

    Pene Fedro


  3. Janina Fuller Says:

    May bright and vivid birthday blessings shower upon Alice all the way to 99! Thank you for sharing your celebration with your many admirers!


  4. Beth Says:

    Happy Birthday, Alice! I’m glad you had a real celebration.
    Andrea’s friend Beth


  5. My mother would have been 98 this August. Your stories about Alice bring tears of joy for a vibrant spirit just like my mother’s. i want to send her a fascinator to wear in her hair.


  6. Gordon Says:

    Happy Birthday, Alice! I am hoisting a beer in your general direction!


  7. John Says:

    Happy Birthday Alice! Sounds like a truly wonderful day!

    (P.S. OMG! Those penguins! I’m going to have to check the Tuesday Morning here to see if they have them … you know Julian and his penguin collection!)


  8. (Not That) Joan Says:

    Happy Belated birthday greetings from Bordeaux, Alice. I wish I could say I was celebrating your birthday with a croissant (the best kind, flaky with crispy tips) but I am afraid it is oatmeal this morning.


  9. Happy birthday to Alice from me! Another delightful tale of Alice’s day to day life and so much more to take from it. Once again, I was enthralled. You have a wonderful record of Alice’s later life in these tales Andrea as I am sure you know. Just beautiful! :-)


  10. Carol Bergh Says:

    Nice, nice, birthday for Alice/Mom! I think my mom is doing great at 90 but she has a way to go to match up to Alice at 98!
    How blessed you both are!
    My love to you both.


  11. dehelen Says:

    Happy Birthday, Alice! Andrea, thank you for sharing this wonderful post.


  12. Lea Says:

    Happy Birthday, Alice!! I hope you enjoy many, many more days as wonderful as this one was. All the best to you Andrea and Alice and all your lovely friends.


  13. rivermile14 Says:

    So glad Alice had a wild and happy birthday filled with hugs, cake, penguins, corsage, and friends!!! Please give her my best wishes too.


  14. cmflet Says:

    Happy 98th Birthday, Alice! Wishing you health, joy, and many many penguins!


  15. Joanne Mulcahy Says:

    A belated happy birthday to Alice – I wish we had been here for the grand celebration!


  16. Elizabeth Says:

    Oh, I love this! Happy Birthday, Alice! What a beautiful woman she is, and I secretly love that her birthday is one day before mine.


  17. Andrea Says:

    Thank you all for these warm wishes. Alice loves being so richly considered and celebrated. It’s days later now and she still hasn’t gotten over a very happy birthday that all of you shared so tenderly with her.


  18. Belated Birthday wishes to Alice. Thanks for sharing it with us. I will be taking my mom to the east coast in a couple of weeks to celebrate her birthday (only 89)–I’m a little nervous re the BIG TRIP.


    • I cannot imagine traveling with Alice. A trip to the Dollar Store, which is only blocks away, seems really far to her. You and your mom will have a good time. She obviously wants to go and you are truly good to take her. Alice said recently about someone in her early 90s that she was “young.” So 89 is spring chicken country. Please wish your mother a happy birthday from us.


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