No gifts this birthday, plan memories instead

I recently visited New Hampshire to join my mother in celebrating her 85th birthday.

While planning the visit, I asked my mother if she would like to go on a short trip with me—maybe a visit to Cape Cod or to Maine?

My mother has temporarily lost her “partner in crime” for outings. My sister is in “grandma mode,” babysitting her 4-monthold grandson four days a week.

On the girlfriend front, my mother was never much of a socializer. She preferred to spend time with her family and work at her job, and then in retirement tend to her husband’s needs. Having a gal pal was really not her thing.

My mother always displayed a true New England work ethic. When I was a child, if a neighbor called to gossip or chat, my mother would roll her eyes at me and do her best to end the call as soon as possible, getting back to her important work of caring for us.

So, with no gal pals to call upon and my sister busy, I thought it might be fun for my mom and me to revisit one of the places she enjoyed in her younger years.

We agreed on a day trip to Portland, Maine. At two hours away, it was short enough where we could get up there by midmorning and be home by early evening. My mom told me she hadn’t been to Portland in over 40 years.

Being a foodie family, we looked for the best breakfast and lunch spots on Yelp and plotted our way past some historic sights on the way to some downtown shopping. We plugged our destinations into my Waze app and followed directions to downtown Portland.

We had a lovely day: eating pastries at a 4.5-star-rated bakery, shopping in gourmet food shops and boutique pet and handicraft stores, and enjoying a seafood lunch at a former car ferry on the marina. As delightful as it was, however, it did not compare to the sheer reminiscence factor of the second half of our trip.

At York, Maine, my mother suggested we get off the highway and take the scenic route back home. We followed our Waze gal’s voice as she took us though the coastal towns of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Once we reached New Hampshire, my mother was in her element.

Back in their day, my parents used to bike ride long distances; 20, 30, 50 miles in a day was the norm.

As we drove by the coastal towns of Seabrook, Hampton, North Hampton, Rye, New Castle and Portsmouth, my mother pointed out the places they’d biked, the beaches they stopped at and the restaurants they visited.

I was so glad I was driving so that my mother could take it all in: the elegant, stately homes; the pristine beaches; the breaking waves and screeching seagulls; and the roses, hostas, hydrangeas and lilies in full bloom.

My mother had mentioned a shack she and my father used to frequent that sold the best lobster rolls and amazing ice cream.

It appeared as we rounded a corner and, on her instructions, I pulled into the parking lot.

For those of you lobster fans reading this, don’t hate us, but we opted only for the ice cream.

We both ordered a “kiddie cup,” and when our number was called and the ice cream was placed in front of us, our eyes bugged out of our heads. One kiddie cup was at least a pint and a half of homemade ice cream. We were in heaven. After our gourmet delight, we decided to navigate on our own as my phone was losing its charge.

After a series of missteps, I announced that we’d been in four states that day: the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and . . . confusion.

We did eventually find our way home, after 11 hours of magic and memories. It was a day to be cherished and a wonderful way to commemorate my mom’s 85th birthday. If you could take a loved one down memory lane for their birthday, where would it be?


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Tags: sharing memories

Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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