Editor’s Note: This post was first published in March 2011. This weekend, our family celebrates Uncle Bert’s 103rd birthday! He is truly amazing.
As I mentioned last week, my family just celebrated my great uncle Bert’s 100th birthday. It was a wonderful weekend-long family reunion with guests ages 1 to 100. At 38, I was on the younger side!
On Friday night we enjoyed a dinner cruise around Manhattan. I was seated across from Dr. Ruth Westheimer (yes, that Dr. Ruth). Turns out she is a friend of the family. In answer to your next question, the dinner conversation was PG-rated. Mostly she was extremely interested in my sister’s book (since Dr. Ruth herself is a Holocaust survivor). I also talked to her about the recent New York Times article where Nate Berkus redecorated Dr. Ruth’s living room (“Oooh, he is my new best friend!” she gushed).
My great uncle Bert was up and about greeting his guests throughout the party, and even danced up a storm. The DJ played music from the 1930s to the present and it was pretty amazing to think that many of the party guests lived through every decade of that music.
At one point we sailed near the Statue of Liberty, and went up on deck to enjoy the view while the DJ appropriately played “The Star Spangled Banner” followed by Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”
We also saw the under-construction Freedom Tower (the building with the bright white lights). As a native New Yorker (whose grandparents came here as European immigrants), I found this very moving. When I was little, I marvelled at the newly constructed “Twin Towers” when I visited my father at his nearby office building. When I was 11, I attended a family party at Windows on the World. And on September 7, 2001, I ate dinner across the street with my then-boyfriend/future husband, marvelling at the towers again. Four days later, they were gone. And in the years since, I got married, had two children, got divorced, and saw Manhattan fall apart and recover again. Now, lower Manhattan is being rebuilt. I thought of all of this as 4 generations of my family sailed past lower Manhattan. How’s that for a metaphor?
We sailed up the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge.
For dessert, the birthday boy (or maybe his 66-year-old daughter, my incredible aunt who was in charge of all party planning) made the trendy choice of cupcakes rather than a birthday cake. When everyone gathered to sing happy birthday, my usually unsentimental uncle paused to wipe a tear from his face. Which made me cry, too. How many of us will get to reach this milestone surrounded by our family, sailing around our “hometown”, dancing to “oldies” from the 1980s and 1990s?
The celebration continued with brunch the next morning. The birthday boy was decked out in his University of Michigan regalia (he is a proud and supportive alumnus).
Look at this amazing cake! It comes from Creative Cakes on NYC’s Upper East Side.
And it wouldn’t be a party without favors, right? Guests did not leave empty-handed. There were gifts galore including #100 notepads and pens, baseball caps, canvas totes, and terry beach towels. Oh, and of course “100 Grand” candy bars (my kids gobbled those up).
All weekend long, family and friends kept saying “We should see each other for happy occasions more often.” This is so true. too many times we only see each other, or talk to each other, when something is wrong. It was a wonderful reminder to celebrate all of the good times…and that includes each birthday, whether or not we have 100 of them!
Thank you so much to my Aunt Patti for coordinating this amazing celebration! Given her family’s longevity, I am sure we will be celebrating her 100th thirty-four years from now!