Are you down in the mouth because your plans to create the best 80th birthday bash ever for your mother have gone up in flames? If so, there are two reasons you shouldn’t let the temporary kibosh on gatherings, crowds, and parties, prevent you from honoring Mom on her special day. One: In a time of social distancing, your loved one may need a little festiveness to pick up her spirits. And two: Yes, it is quite possible to celebrate without risking the spread of the COVID-19 virus—it just takes a little inventiveness.
You may already have read about the countless drive-by birthday parades that are popping up across the continent-- cars decked out in balloons and signs, with drivers joyously honking their horns to birthday boys and girls of all ages including nonagenarians. (In one drive-by parade, well-wishers used crutches and broomsticks to extend gifts to a California teen.) In some cases, friends park in front of their friend’s home and party from inside their vehicle. Then too, some folks stand outside the homes of their friends and neighbors—six feet apart, of course-- singing happy birthday or holding up birthday signs and balloons, as they did earlier this spring for a 95-year-old.
Still, stand-by or drive-by parties might not be realistic in your case. Luckily, Zoom can come to the rescue! (At Sunrise Retirement video chats are among the most popular ways for family members to connect. If your loved one is not comfortable with technology, ask our Life Enrichment Director to facilitate a video-call, and keep in mind that your loved one doesn’t need a smart device, as all our communities have iPads.)
If you chose to go with a video-call, keep in mind that a birthday chat is a little different than an everyday call. Before the video-chat, remember to do your hair and to choose a nice dress or shirt and pants instead of sweat pants and a T-shirt. Pay attention to the background as well. Hang some balloons and display some photos of your loved one as well as other family photos in the background. Make your virtual time together special by adding a creative activity. Perhaps you (or your kids) could compose and read a birthday poem, or create and display a watercolor or drawing, or, better yet, serenade Mom with favorite songs.
You can also go one step further and arrange to eat dinner together over Zoom. Ideally, organize it so that you are both are eating the same meal. Perhaps you could cook Mom’s favorite food (including special dessert) and drop it off to her community. Another alternative: Pay a local restaurant to deliver her a delicious meal and scrumptious dessert. Back at your place, make sure to do the meal in style—pull out the good china, nice napkins or tablecloth, and arrange a vase of flowers.
You could also bump up the celebration by organizing a Zoom birthday party, perhaps based on a theme, like your mother’s favorite era. Then, ask her best friends and family members to don their swing dresses or tie-dye skirts when they come on the call to pay tribute to her. Don’t forget to ask your loved one to sign on a few minutes later than others so the party-goers can sing happy birthday to her. Another reminder: make sure to ask invitees to bring their own cake!
Remember, on special days the most important thing is honoring and connecting with your parent. With a little bit of planning, coordination and creativity you just might be able to create a celebration your Mom will remember for years. Just because we’re in lockdown doesn’t mean we have to put a lid on festivities.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April 2020.