It’s finally here.

My mother has been talking about this day for the last six months.

“Can you believe I’m going to be ninety?” she asks in genuine amazement every time I talk with her.

Her five children, their spouses, children, their spouses, and their grandchildren now number 46.

And all of us are celebrating with her.

High School senior

High School senior, 1945

The queen mother.

The queen mother. Photo: Linda Zeranko

 

BLUSH readers, be sure to note the white shoes. May 17, 1947

BLUSH readers, be sure to note the white shoes. May 17,1947

 

Bananagrams, Mother's Favorite game

Bananagrams, Mother’s Favorite game, 2016, Photo by Henry Hershey

 

Laughing under the weeping willow tree, 2016.

Laughing under the weeping willow tree, 2016. Sue, me, Mother, Henry, Linda. Photo by Joyous Snyder

The 90th birthday is today, February 27, 2017,

but the big party will be this Saturday March 4.

All family members have been planning for months and everyone is contributing.

I’m especially eager to share a video which started 70 years ago and was only finished last week.

Some unknown member of the extended family invested in a movie camera and color film.

Mother and Daddy had neither a movie camera nor a projector, so the film the movie photographer took at their wedding went into a can.

Somehow the can survived the downsizing moves of the last decades.

Sister Doris took the film to the camera store. Her son John put the digital version on YouTube.

We then had a 2-3 minute silent movie.

Mother remembered two songs from the wedding and the fact that there was a quartet.

Sister Sue found a picture of the quartet.

My nephew Clay Showalter, a videographer and musician, helped take photos my brother sent and I had on my computer and turned the old footage into a 4-minute movie.

We’ll be showing it at the party on Saturday.

Half of me says, “Wait, don’t share now!”

But the other half says, “No one can see this too many times!” Mother saw it once to approve the content.

She said it made her want to cry.

After the party, she’ll have it on her iPad and can watch as many times as she wants.

It’s her party, and she’ll cry if she wants to.

If you want to wish Mother a Happy Birthday, please leave a comment below.

Also, any birthday memories you want to share of your own mother are welcome here, too.

Shirley Showalter

58 Comments

  1. Jeanette Bontrager on February 27, 2017 at 9:24 am

    A very happy birthday wish for you from Jeanette and Herman! I loved watching the video. Of course I was thrilled to see pictures of my mother and dad as well as of you and Uncle Richard. The recent pictures of you show that you still have a zest for living. I hope the years that remain for you will continue to be filled with love and peace.
    Love, Jeanette

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 9:40 am

      So glad you found the video, Jeanette and Herman. As I watched those faces, I was so glad my father had a lifelong friend in your father, and that you and Herb can see your beautiful young parents as they were in 1947. Did you have a movie camera? Do you know who did? That mystery is still unsolved.

      I’ll be sure Mother gets to see your greeting.

      Love,

      Shirley

  2. Roxanne Landis on February 27, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Happy, Happy 90th Birthday! My mother in law, Betty (Hess)Landis turned 90 on February 19th and it sure looks like she is in your wedding video. Is that possible? She looks like the woman standing in the front of the crowd holding her purse in front of her with both hands in a darker outfit. If not, it is someone who looks exactly like her. I soooooo enjoyed watching this video….what wonderful memories!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 10:11 am

      Roxanne, we’ll ask Mother about Betty Hess Landis. I have a feeling that there are quite a few people in this video I can’t identify but who have living relatives who might enjoy seeing this happy day. After the party, I’ll make the video public in hopes that others can enjoy it. Happy birthday to your mother-in-law also!

      • Roxanne Landis on February 27, 2017 at 10:15 am

        Thank you so much! If it is my mother in law I am sure she would love to see the video when it’s made public!

        • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

          She can see the video inside this blog right now if you have a way to share with her. The video will be made public next week.

  3. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on February 27, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Happy celebration of 9 decades to Barbara Ann Hess Hershey from your fan in California. I have loved being involved with details of your life through Shirley’s book and blog.

    I would love to play Banagrams with you. My mother lived to age 94, and in my last days with her in 2010, 2 weeks before she died, we played Scrabble, and she won.

    Blessings to you as you enter the new decade, and may you continue to feel the Shepherd’s guidance every day.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Mother will be happy to “meet” you this way, Dolores. She enjoys talking with readers of Blush and answering their questions.
      You’ve been without your mother for seven years. I’m sorry for your loss. But what a memory of a mother who loved words and loved life.
      The Shepherd has been walking close to Mother all her life and certainly is guiding us in gratitude for her 90 years.

  4. Erma Yost on February 27, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Having turned 70 last month, Barbara is an inspiration for the next twenty years! Congratulations and thank you for sharing a life well lived!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      Thank you, Erma. And congratulations on your own milestone. We are fortunate in having many well-lived lives around us as we navigate our own jubilación years. Thanks for sharing this comment. I know Mother will enjoy.

  5. Marian Beaman on February 27, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Happy Birthday, Barbara Ann, aka Queen Mother! You are officially a nonagenarian today. I feel all the love, joy, and high spirits in your daughter’s tribute to you. I especially enjoyed the story of how the video has tracked the evolving technology of the last century. Aren’t you glad you didn’t throw out that can?

    The pictures and text are wonderful, but I especially enjoyed the music. The Love of God was my mother’s favorite hymn and we sang it at her funeral. The harmony in the voices here sounds so much like I remember. I am sorry you never met my mother. A few years ago I paid tribute to her and my Aunt Cecilia Metzler in this post: http://marianbeaman.com/2014/05/21/do-you-want-to-be-a-nonagenarian/

    Yes, indeed, birthdays should last more than a day. I’m glad your family is extending the celebration from one month into the next. I eagerly await the next installment . . .

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Marian, thanks for posting your nonagenarian essay from several years ago. It was good to see your mother again and to recall her birthday party. One of the best reason to learn how to use digital media, even at a rudimentary level, is to preserve the energy of one life even after the subject ages and dies.

      My daughter had never met her grandfather in the flesh, but this video brought him alive to her in a way that isn’t possible with any other form of imagery.

      We’ll keep the party going as long as we can. I called to sing happy birthday to Mother, and she sang right along with me. 🙂

  6. Merril Smith on February 27, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Oh my! Happy Birthday to your mother! The video had me teary-eyed, so I can imagine that your mother cried. How wonderful to have that film!

    The Queen Mother was a sweet-faced, beautiful high school senior and bride. She reminds me of Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ In The Rain. But the photos of her laughing are even better. She definitely has the love of her family. I’m sure everyone will enjoy her birthday celebration.

    My mother will be turning 95 this summer. We will celebrate it, but there’s nothing planned yet. We had a big party/luncheon for her when she turned 90.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 6:04 pm

      I can tell you have the gift of empathy, Merril. And a historian’s interest in seeing the past come alive.

      I love the photos of her laughing also. If I live as long, I hope I’ll have the same zest.

      Your mother seems to have zest also. And 95. Well, that’s a great number. I hope you have a great time together.

  7. Lisa Enqvist on February 27, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    A very Happy Birthday to your mother! The video is a treasure – for her and generations to come. My favorite songs on it too!It’s wonderful that her whole family can celebrate the Grand Old Lady together!

    My mother “avoided” many birthday celebrations by being abroad (out at sea on a Gospel ship) on her 50th, (isolated on the Gospel ship in Ceylon) on her 60th, and (Singapore) on her 70th birthday. For her 75th birthday, my sister and I asked as many of her friends around the world as we could find addresses to, to write some memory they had of her. Quite a number of them responded. I traveled home from Thailand to Finland to share in that surprise celebration with her. All my three brothers and my dad were on the other side of the globe. Many of her friends visited her that day. She lived to 87.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 6:12 pm

      Lisa, thanks for the birthday wishes. I’m glad you enjoyed the video and the music. I’m so impressed by my talented nephew and his friends.

      The idea of a memory book, collecting stories in a form that can last after the candles are blown out and the party’s over, is one my thoughtful sister-in-law suggested. We are putting a book together also.

      Your family was so global you had to be creative in order to celebrate. But you were given a great gift also. The gift of many cultures woven into one family.

  8. Saloma Furlong on February 27, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Happy Birthday, Barbara Ann! May you enjoy being surrounded by your whole family as you celebrate this important birthday. It sounds like you still have things to tell the world, and thank goodness for that!

    May God’s Love and Light shine on you always,

    Saloma

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Saloma, thanks so much for sending this message to Mother. I know she’ll enjoy and appreciate it. Sending Love and Light back to you.

  9. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on February 27, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I so loved the video. Thanks for sharing it. What a beautiful and joyous person your mother is! Did she marry again? I thought there was another wedding on the video, but wasn’t sure.
    When my mother was 82 years old she was hospitalized for what they thought might be a heart condition. She wanted no heroic measures, saying her mother and her grandmother died at age 82 and she was prepared to do so as well. It was a false alarm, and she lived another four and a half years. Osteoporosis gave her a lot of pain and they were not the good years your mother seems to be enjoying. But she was a brave soul, and I learned so much from her about endurance and quiet acceptance. I thank God every day for the example she was to me. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her with love and gratitude.
    Happy Birthday to your wonderful mom!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 27, 2017 at 6:23 pm

      Yes, Mother did marry a second time, Elfrieda. Her second husband died in 2011. They had been married 18 years.

      It seems that your mother was a model of grace no matter the circumstances. I hope you will be spared the kind of pain she bore from osteoporosis.

      Thank you for your kind good wishes. I’ll be sure to pass them on!

  10. Barbara Sue Bolllinger on February 27, 2017 at 11:03 pm

    Beautifully done!! Thank you, Shirley!!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 28, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Thank you, Sister Sue. And thank you much more for all you do to care for Mother and organize the rest of us on a daily basis!

  11. Karin Larson Krisetya on February 28, 2017 at 7:25 am

    What a gift this video is, to your mom and to the world. I loved the music, and the idea that a song guided your mom and dad in their marriage. The sermon that was preached (by my father) at my wedding has been a touchstone for Mat and I over the last 21 years together–‘Be welcome for each other.’ One thing that surprised me in the wedding was that the bridesmaids’ bouquets were huge compared to your mom’s! And who was that little girl in the pink dress? I’d put my money on the fact that she stole the show. I’d love to know what she is doing now. Give your mom a birthday kiss from friends in Minnesota!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 28, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Thanks, Karin, will indeed pass along your kiss all the way from Minnesota. I think Mother carried a white Bible and possibly a few flowers. The flowers were controversial and considered “fancy” like the white shoes and therefore disapproved of by the bishop who married the young couple. But flowers overflowed the place, as you can see in the picture of the quartet taken inside the house! I have a feeling the bridesmaids picked up their bouquets after the service ended. Not sure about that.

      I believe the little girl is my cousin Dottie Ann. I am hoping to confirm that when my Uncle Allen watches the video for the first time at the party. The little boy darting around is another cousin, I think.

  12. Laurie Buchanan on February 28, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Shirley — The photographs you shared are wonderful. Clearly cobalt blue is your mother’s color. And I love the contagious one of open-mouthed laughter under the tree!

    Barbara — You are an inspiration. happy, Happy, HAPPY birthday! If I were a fortune teller I’d tell you, “Get plenty of rest because the celebration on March 4th is going to be a doozie of a humdinger!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 28, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      Great advice, Laurie. Mother will resonate with both those words.

      I had the same reaction to the cobalt blue when I saw that photo. We’ll see what Mother wears for the party. I happen to know that she has a brand new red hat and red coat!

  13. Kathleen Pooler on February 28, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Happy Birthday, Barbara Ann! Indeed, you are surrounded by love. Enjoy your 90th birthday to the fullest as it appears you have enjoyed your life until this milestone. The pictures and music are beautiful. Keep shining on and spreading your light to your family and the world. My dear mother just celebrated her 94th birthday. You both are Queen Mothers and we are blessed to have you with us.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 28, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      I love seeing pictures of you with your lovely mother, Kathy. She exudes class, and together you exude love.

      We are so blessed. The only thing to do with such a rich heritage is to try our best to love as we have been loved. And to give it away. “Love is like a magic penny. Hold it tight and you don’t have any. Spend it, lend it, and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.”

  14. Betty Kanagy Schrag on February 28, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    Happy birthday, Barbara! You are a woman of chutzpah and grace…characteristics you passed on to your daughter, Shirley! May you be blessed with many more years of love, joy, and peace…and don’t lose your feistiness!!
    Betty Kanagy Schrag, friend and former administrative assistant of Shirley’s

    • Shirley Showalter on February 28, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      Dear Betty,

      Always good to hear from you. I know Mother will get a special twinkle in her eye when she reads your comment!

      Thank you.

  15. June on February 28, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Dear ‘Queen mum’ on your birthday. I imagine in your 90 years that you have seen a lot of change. I want to wish you the Lord’s blessing on this your 90th birthday. May it truly be a special one, spent with family and friends. One thing I have learned about people from the Mennonite culture, is how important family is.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      June, thank you for these words. Mother and Queen Elizabeth of England do indeed have much in common, beginning with their ages. Elizabeth is also 90 years old and will be 90 another month.

      Mother has given her life to her family and her church. Many of the people in the video, including the best man married to the bridesmaid, and of course Daddy himself, and Mother’s second husband Arnold, are no longer with us. But those who are here, and the generations to follow, will rise up and call her blessed.

  16. susan scott on March 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Happy Birthday Barbara Ann! May your day be filled with joy and happiness! And of course all will be happy to share this event with you. How wonderful that you’ll have your loving family with you! If I could do an emoticon of a huge bunch of flowers on my response to your daughter’s post, I would. May your life continue to be filled with blessings.

    Shirley, I do not know how your post escaped me, but golly, I’m glad I found it .. the video is lovely as are all the photographs. Have a wonderful day! Am going back now to read all the comments and your responses – always part of my enjoyment!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks for the virtual flowers, Susan. Mother will enjoy them, I’m sure.

      I posted a day early this week so that I could post on Mother’s birthday, so that might have confused you. Thanks for finding us and leaving these kind words.

      I agree that the comments make this journey worthwhile. Especially when they are a way of sharing our lives across seas and continents.

  17. Kathleen Friesen on March 1, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Barbara Ann, Wishing you a happy birthday and the happiest of celebrations with family and friends. May many stories of life and hope be told; may new memories of love and warmth be made; may the year ahead hold curiosity and adventure, all connected by love to family and friends.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Thank you, Kathleen. What a beautiful blessing. You too know the joys of celebrating long lives lived well, as well as well-lived lives cut short.

      Thank you for adding to the birthday offerings!

  18. Sue McFadden on March 1, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Happy Happy Birthday Mrs. Becker! Thank you Shirley for sharing this. My Mom has been gone many years. Nice to imagine a gathering such as this. My old family Mennonite roots salute you and your family! This party is going to be a blast!!!!!!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      You are right about the blast, Sue. Thanks so much for chiming in to help make it so.

      We salute you back!

  19. Tina Barbour on March 1, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Mother! She was and is a beautiful lady. I can see love and light just shining out of her. What a blessing to have her as a mother, and what a blessing her children have been to her, I’m sure. Please tell your Mother that when I read Blush, I was impressed with her pluckiness in choosing to wear the white shoes at her wedding.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you, Tina. Mother will be blushing when she reads your words. 🙂

      I will tell her you remember that story. The family always gets a good laugh out of it.

      I have been trying to find a white pair of shoes to give to her as a gag gift, but so far no luck!

  20. Joan on March 1, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    Happy Birthday, Barbara Ann, and many more. We don’t know each other, but through your daughter I feel we have met on some other level. What a wonderful smile you have! I hope you all have a wonderful celebration!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks, Joan. I think I am going to share your memoir with Mother. I am sure she’ll be able to empathize with both generations you write about.

      Thanks for chiming in with your sweet voice.

  21. Judy Sargent on March 1, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Awesome – both Barbara Ann AND the video! Happy 90th Birthday to a very special woman. Every time I see you, I am struck by your wonderful smile. You are a gift to your neighbors here at Landis Homes, and a treasure to your family.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks you, Judy. It’s great to have someone contribute a current glimpse of mother from her place at Landis Homes now.

      She has always had good neighbors and has tried to be a good neighbor.

      Thank you for your tender mercies to her and to your other neighbors.

  22. Audrey Denecke on March 1, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Happy Birthday! What a love-filled, family-centered and spirit held life you’ve lived. Yes, 90 years is so amazing. Congratulations.
    I hope your birthday celebration on March 4th is filled with joyous moments and happy memories. Hugs to you (my mother’s favorite sign of affection).
    Thank you so much, Shirley, for sharing your video.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you, Audrey. I’ll make sure Mother gets your hug. In it will be all the hugs your mother gave you!

  23. Melanie on March 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    This is fabulous. It chronicles so well your parents’ start together, the passage of time, the growth of your family. It’s clear your mom is as spirited as you portray her in Blush. My husband’s father passed away unexpectedly last week, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about time’s passage and what remains, after our lives are done. This is a wonderful gift for your family to have as you celebrate your mother’s 90th!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you, Melanie, and condolences to you and your family. A sudden death close to us concentrates the mind and does indeed prompt reflection on time’s passage and on what remains.

      My daughter especially loved the video when she first saw it, because she never new her grandfather, who died before she was born.

      Always good to have your thoughts here, Melanie. I know Mother will enjoy too.

  24. Janice Knight Hartman on March 1, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Happy Birthday from Florida. I am here with my mom who will be 94 the end of March. We are preparing for a trip up to Lititz/Manheim to East Fairview Church of the Brethren to the grave of my dad who died 2 years ago. We are blessed that mom is still with us. We are planning a small get together at the Lititz Mennonite Church where my brother and his family attend church now. And, a card shower is planned for later this month. Loved the video from years ago. Happy memories! Happy Birthday again from us all.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 1, 2017 at 10:34 pm

      Janice, we are connected in numerous ways. Thanks for telling me about your brother and father. And an advanced Happy Birthday to your mother.

      Thank you for taking time to comment, and I hope the rest of your time in Florida is lovely.

  25. Janet Elaine Guthrie on March 3, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Congratulations to Barbara Ann on her 90th birthday, from two admiring fans! We loved our time with you at the home place last summer, hearing family stories, soaking up your vitality, and seeing you and Shirley together. Your gracious presence and fun-loving spirit are testament to a life well-lived. We watched the birthday video and smiled at the sight of your white wedding shoes! Every good wish for a splendid celebration. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Janet Elaine Guthrie & Mark Jaeger

    • Shirley Showalter on March 3, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you, Janet. We are packing up the car right now, planning for the big day tomorrow. Thanks to you and Mark for these words of appreciation and fond memories. I know Mother will enjoy your good wishes.

  26. Tracy Lee Karner on March 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Happy 90th Birthday, Barbara! I feel like I know you from Blush–and I admire you!

    And happy wonderful party day to your entire family. What a beautiful video. Blessings and best wishes to all of you.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you, Tracy. The party was fantastic. Next time I visit Mother, I’ll sit down and tell her all about these wonderful people she has never met but who have met her in BLUSH. She will be delighted by your kind words.

  27. Elaine Mansfield on March 8, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    The movie made me weep. The beautiful bride Barbara, the handsome groom, the smiling shy girls, the solemn patriarchs watching over everyone. What a beautiful family surrounding you then and now. I bet you cried at your party. I bet most everyone did. With appreciation and joy for a life well lived.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 15, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Thank you, Elaine, for your full entry into the experience of this little snippet from the past. As I watched it for the first time with my sibs and mother, I felt blown back, like a strong wind had blown me to a time where I did not yet exist, and a time when land and church had deeply implanted my parents with visions and values they could not have articulated.

      I didn’t cry at the party, but I did cry, and so did Mother, the first time I watched the sound version of this movie. And I know I will cry again, perhaps many times, as more and more of those young innocents move past the veil.

  28. Sherrey Meyer on March 10, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Shirley, please pass along birthday wishes and blessings to your mother. Congratulations to all of you for bringing her history to life in the video. Neither of my parents lived to an age where we would celebrate an extraordinary age like 90. The longest living member of my family died in July 2016 at the age of 102, a cousin on my dad’s side. She has passed along to me images of my father early in his life, which are treasured, and my mother’s family pictures fill an acid free box. I was fortunate to have her fill in the names for some of those during the days her memory of the morning was lost but many years ago still crisp.

    Bob and I enjoyed the video and the music. We are a nostalgic pair and remembered the summer we visited Lancaster and stayed in Intercourse. What a fun time we had sending postcards from there!

    BTW, your mother doesn’t look 90. 🙂

    Sherrey

    • Shirley Showalter on March 15, 2017 at 9:21 am

      Sherrey, your visit to Intercourse (and Paradise and Blue Ball?), places so much fun to joke about because of their names, has stayed with you and helps you understand your Mennonite blogger friends at a deep level.

      Mother looked very youthful for her age at the party. She greeted more than 100 people and had her hair and nails “done.” She has always loved looking good. Our family supplied her with new red coat and hat and scarf and gloves. It was fun to see her enjoy them. She has been beautiful at every age.

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