Switching the 5 to a 6

My loyal blog readers will remember the tribute to our dad that my sister Cheryl wrote as a guest post here a few months ago. She’s back today with this sweet essay about Flo on her 96th birthday.

Honey Girls

by Cheryl May

Beth, Cheryl, Flo and Bev on Flo's 96thLast year we celebrated Mom’s 95th birthday on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago. It was her first time there, and she still talks about that special celebration. This year she told us she didn’t want to do anything special. “It’s gonna be special already,” she said. “The new baby is due on my birthday!”

Well, Mom’s birthday gift was delivered a little early. Her 20th great-grandchild, Addison Rose, arrived on April 13th….and what a beautiful gift. So when we gathered for Mom’s 96th birthday yesterday we raised a glass or two — in celebration of both Mom’s and Addie’s birthday.

Our sister Bev drove in from Michigan and surprised Flo at the entrance of the restaurant, and our cousin Darrell stopped in, too. Mom marveled that her first birthday phone call that morning came at 7 a.m. “Seven in the morning!” she said, shaking her head in amazement every time she said it. “Can you believe that?”

What she couldn’t know then was that a string of phone calls would be waiting on her answering machine when we brought her back to her condo, culminating with a Liberace-style rendering of “Happy Birthday” from Pick and Hank in D.C. Pick at the grand piano, of course!

A neighbor at mom’s condo had decorated her door a la college dorm room days. “The sign said 95,” Mom said. “She got it wrong. I changed the five to a six.” Neighbors couldn’t help but notice the sign, and birthday cards started piling up under her door. “So many cards!” she beamed. She didn’t take a nap yesterday, so much going on and all. I don’t feel tired,” she assured us. “But I know I will once I sit down and put my feet up.”

Some of us can never remember the name of the “new” small restaurant we meet at across from the Elmhurst train station, so we just say, “you know, Honey Girl.” Heads nod, all of us remembering the clothes store that used to occupy that space when we were growing up. And today, it was the perfect name for the place we celebrated Florence Maria Martea Frederika and her new great-granddaughter Addie Rose: Honey Girl!

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15 Responses to “Switching the 5 to a 6”


  1. 1 Alexis April 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Beth, I’ve been reading your posts faithfully, just haven’t commented for a long time. I appologize.

    I wanted to ask you if you had any resources for beginning a memoir writing project. I’ve been considering writing a memoir but beginning is the most difficult part.

    Thanks!

    • 2 bethfinke April 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Perfect timing for this comment, Alexis – while it’s true Flo asked us not to give her anything for her birthday, I*did* bring a little something: I printed out a list of essay topics I’ve assigned to my memoir-writing classes. For years my sister Cheryl has been asking me to print out a list of the topics I assign, she hopes it might prompt both her and Flo to get some of their own memories down on paper.
      In class I assign a topic and tell my writers to write 500 words or fewer on that topic. The 500-word limit we have in class is necessary so that everyone can read, but that necessity turned out to be a happy accident. Even if we had a small class, I might enforce a word limit – starting to write a memoir might be daunting, but just about anyone can write 500 words on a topic. The word limit helps us write essays that are easier to listen to (and read) and the word limit forces the Writer to choose good, strong, efficient words.
      I’m working on a book now that will incorporate some of the things I’ve learned by leading my memoir classes, and that book will reveal a lot of the topics I assign in class. For now, how about I give you the assignment my students will be reading this Wednesday? I just got back from a trip to Champaign-Urbana to do a guest lecture for a college class. I took the train with new dog Whitney, so the subject for this Wednesday is:
      All Aboard!
      You can write about a train ride, or perhaps about sometime in your life when you had to try to get a lot of people to do the same thing, you know get them “all aboard.” Or maybe sometime when you followed the crowd, got “All aboard” and it didn’t turn out so well?
      Happy writing!

  2. 3 Laura April 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Love the post and happy birthday to Flo. I haven’t thought about Honey Girl for years but fondly remember using my mom’s special Honey Girl credit card when shopping for new school “outfits.”

    • 4 bethfinke April 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Oh, Laura, I can *so easily* picture your mom at Honey Girl! How grown up of you to use her charge card there back then…

  3. 6 Bobbie Hopper April 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Beth, please pass on my birthday wishes to your mom. And congratulations on being a great aunt again! I told Mare I’m jealous that she got to be a grandma before I did. One day I’ll catch up, I hope!

    My Honey Girl memory is that it was one of only a few stores in town where you could go in one door and out a different door and end up on a different street. I think I may have played hide and seek that way a few times.

    Take care…

    • 7 bethfinke April 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Ha! I forgot all about the two-way entrance to Honey Gril –so intriguing at the time!

      • 8 bethfinke April 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

        Oops, typing too fast this morning. I meant Honey *Girl*, of course. Honey Grill sounds like one of these new-fangled chain restaurants.

  4. 9 Marcia Aunspaugh April 21, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    What a wonderful celebration for my god-mother’s 96th birthday. The picture is so lovely I had to print one out for myself. You all sure know how to show a girl a good time.

  5. 11 Siobhan Senier April 22, 2012 at 8:30 am

    96. Holy moly. Happy Birthday Flo!!!

  6. 13 Maria April 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

    God Bless that girl 96 years old….or should I say, young? She may be 96, but she sounds like she’s younger to me than younger people I know. And she does sound blessed! What an amazing woman…wish I could meet her. She lives alone at 96? Unbelievalbe!!!!!!!!!!
    Happy, happy, birthday, Honey Girls. :)

  7. 14 Jill Foucre April 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Happy birthday to Flo! And the two doors at Honey Girl made me smile — I think sister Jennifer and I misbehaved in there once or twice. And I think Flo looks the same as she did when we were in high school — and she looked great then!

    • 15 bethfinke April 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

      Ha! I think *everyone* looks the same as they did when we were in high school, and you all looked great then, even in overalls. I’ll extend your greetings to Flo — thanks, Jill!


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