My Mom’s 70th Birthday Parth

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “RSVP.” Plan the ultimate celebration for the person you’re closest to, and tell us about it. Where is it? Who’s there? What’s served? What happens?

In 1990, I planned the ultimate surprise birthday party for my mom at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. She was 70. So you know, my mom lived in Montana and I lived in San Diego. Among other strategic challenges I had to get her to New Mexico. The only friend anywhere near was in Albuquerque. Maria, a long, long, long time friend of my family, conspired with me and invited my mom down for a visit. My mom probably would have said “No,” but with help from my Aunt Helen, my dad’s sister, who suddenly developed a passionate desire to visit New Mexico 😉 , we got my mom to Santa Fe.

It’s difficult to say how my mom felt about the party — she seemed nonplussed, like “What? Why?” the whole time. I was describing this to a friend recently, and she said something very wise, “Sometimes people are afraid to let themselves feel happiness.” I think she accurately described my mom.

The party was beautiful. The hotel was special to my mom. I didn’t know why, but I took it on face value. The corner on which this hotel sits has held a hotel since the 1600s. The current building is the lovely Spanish/Art deco of the 1920s. My ex-husband and I got a suite which we shared with my brother and his daughter.

The night before, we all organized the party decorations and favors, then, early the next morning, we were in the Coronado Room decorating. 

My brother and his daughter collating the calendars that would be given as party favors. This was WAY before Shutterfly etc.

My brother and his daughter organizing party decorations. This was WAY before Shutterfly etc.

My brother and I had made “favors” for the party and give-away calendars with our own art work. I drew scenes from my mom’s life and Kirk drew very funny cartoons. My brother even designed a T-shirt, but we didn’t, ultimately, end up having that printed. My mom and other party-goers were not really the T-shirt type.

 My niece’ other grandma made my niece a beautiful “New Mexico” dress in shades of turquoise, coral and white. The skirt had a Southwestern print, with howling coyotes, cactus and the moon. More than thirty people came from as far away as Nebraska and Oregon to celebrate the day with my mom. We had a banquet room for the event and the hotel catered with typical northern New Mexico dishes, the Mexican food I grew up with. My mom’s cake was a carrot cake.


The party — my niece and brother in the foreground, family members and friends seated all around, the beautiful decor of the La Fonda Hotel.

It was a great party and last week when I was in Santa Fe, and visited La Fonda for the first time since 1990, I was ambushed by nostalgia as I walked past the sign announcing the day’s events in the hotel. I saw my brother, my niece and I posing under the sign the morning of the party, happy and excited for what was to come later that day.


Twenty-five years may seem to pass in the blink of an eye, but it is really a pretty long time in our human scale of reference. Most of the people who attended that party are no longer alive. But in the photos of that day, they are very alive, and very happy. And, it seems my mom did enjoy it. After she died, we found all the memorabilia from the party — calendars, posters, the invitation, and photo album — stored away with other things she valued.

Me at La Fonda 11:3:2015

Me at the La Fonda Hotel twenty-five years later.

10 thoughts on “My Mom’s 70th Birthday Parth

    • Even though my mom had a hard time feeling or expressing emotions other than anger and fear, I can see on her face in this photo what I couldn’t see that day. She WAS happy. 🙂

  1. Such a nice story and gee you guys did lots of work for your mom’s 70th. And you haven’t changed much – just the color of your hair and still wearing glasses.

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