When I was born a few years ago, the nurse wrapped me in a blanket and handed me to my mother, who was delighted to see me – even though my arrival had not exactly been planned. She had already given birth to four children, beginning 17 years earlier. As she cuddled me, she told herself that her only regret was that she was already past 40 and would probably not live long enough to see my children.
But 40 years later, she is still on the go. She has never been one to stand still. As a child, her parents moved from Atlanta to Miami and back to Atlanta, where they lived in several neighborhoods, including Poncey-Highland and Garden Hills. When my Dad was getting ready to go overseas in World War II, she and her two daughters joined him in his training camp in Tennessee. During his absence, he bought a house on Atwood Road in Garden Hills that he didn’t see until his return from the Philippines.
Seven years later, they moved to Sandy Springs. Seven years later, they moved to Buckhead. Seven years later, they built a new house in their side yard. We always kidded Mom about having her own version of the seven-year itch. At the new house, my father put his foot down. “You’ll have to carry me out of here in a pine box,” he promised.
After a few years, Mom started talking about buying a house at the beach. But Dad was against the idea. “We can’t afford it,” was his standard response. They settled on building a retirement home in what was then a new mountain development north of Atlanta called Big Canoe. After a few years (I think it was seven, to be exact), my mother started saying it was time to sell the mountain house and get a beach house. Dad’s response: “We can’t afford it.”
Somewhere in the 1970s, when CB radios were the rage and drivers on the highway were talking in code to truckers, looking for highway patrol “bears,” Mom bought a new station wagon that had a CB installed. Every driver with a CB had to have a “handle” or a code name to use on the highway so the patrol couldn’t prove it was you alerting other drivers to a “bear with his ears up (radar).” Someone in my family suggested that Mom, whose name is Van, adopt the appropriate handle of “Moving Van.” She did.
In the late ’80s, my parents sold the mountain house and began renting houses at the beach. Mom kept lobbying everyone in the family that it was time to make an investment in a beach house. But Dad wasn’t buying. “We still can’t afford it,” he’d say. After Dad died in 1994, Mom checked the financial picture and announced to the family, “Now we can afford it.” I helped her find a house at the beach.
A few days ago, my mother celebrated her 82rd birthday. She hasn’t slowed down a beat. She drives with friends to the mountains or jumps in her car by herself and heads to the beach. She has moved into her second Buckhead condo in as many years. And she has done more than just see my kids. She has been a constant, prodding and supportive voice in their lives and those of her many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The rest of us only marvel at her energy and drive. We hope we can be half as mobile when we’re 82.
Happy Birthday, Mom. Keep on movin’.