It’s been a week since I have been “officially” on the web; this due to a birthday. Yes, mine was two days ago, but that’s not really the birthday that I’m raving about today. No, it’s the birthday of a very special and beloved woman who I lovingly call “momma Juanita.” Her name is Juanita Ford. Her birthday was the 18th of July (mine the 19th). She decided several months ago to celebrate her 80th in grand style with those very fortunate people with whom she has gracefully (and sometimes in tornadic fashion) impacted with her love and generosity that knows no boundaries.
Her guests began arriving last Tuesday and continued to arrive until the following Monday. Her home was filled to capacity with people coming in from all over the United States. The overflow stayed at a nearby hotel. Paul and I were fortunate to provide a guest room for two visitors who came in for the “big gala event” this last Monday.
Paul and I spent time with the early arrivals before the official “blast off” of events which started last Friday. We greeted old friends and made new friends …. ate pizza, drank a glass (or two) of wine, and it didn’t take long for us all to understand that we were a part of a very special club. We were all people who shared a great love for a very special lady.
There was the “official meet & greet event” last Friday at the hotel where many were staying.
There was the ladies “high tea” at the Lexington Tea House (absolutely a “must” for all in a 100 mi. radius, don’t you know!) We all wore apparel appropriate for a grand tea … including hats of course! After tea, we went our separate ways for a couple of hours …. donned our pajamas … and met again for a “ladies pajama party.” (What goes on at the pajama party … stays at the pajama party …. wink.) And no, the men were not left out. They all went bowling during the day, then out to the wonderful Fire & Sticks Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Restaurant. Later that evening, there was a friendly (depending on who was losing) game of pool at our house.
And then there was the Sunday afternoon BBQ. The food was absolutely bountiful and delicious, with three different meats and lots (I do mean lots) of side-dishes. We were an eclectic group, enjoying all the things that we had (and did not have) in common and learning so many things that we didn’t know about each other. Some had known each other all their lives, some for 30 or 40 years … and some had meet for the very first time. The common denominator, of course was Juanita. But if you were a stranger passing by, you would have felt for sure that this was a family gathering. And … you would be right. Every single person present looks upon Juanita as a wife or a sister-in-law or an aunt, or a sister, or a grandmother, or … a mother. Being one of the fortunate to call her “mom”, I marveled at all the sisters and brothers I had acquired … all because of Juanita Ford.
And finally, it was the evening …. Monday, July 18, 2011 … of the Grand Gala event. And what a grand event it was! The dinner was catered by Above & Beyond Catering Company. The food was delightfully scrumptious from appetizers to dessert … and beautifully presented. John Ford (husband) sang songs (which he had written years back) to his beautiful “birthday gal”. Dance music (and there was a lot of dancing!) was provided by The Friendly Neighborhood D.J.-John Haskins. We were especially delighted and very much blessed to have the one and only Brad Preddy (grandson to Juanita) entertain us with songs from Broadway theater, classical (you should hear him sing Puccini’s Nessun Dorma!) and Christian genres (his rendition of The Lord’s Prayer is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard!). He brought the house down when he sang a song he dedicated to Juanita. A song he believes “says it best” concerning Juanita and the extraordinary life she has led. The song … “I Did It My Way.” Everyone who knows Juanita Ford knows this to be true. She has (and continues to this day) always done it her way. And everyone her knows her … loves her.
In fairness to my readers … I need to digress for a moment and tell you a little more about this amazing young man by the name of Brad Preddy. Simply put, he is talented actor and also has the most amazing voice. He has produced several CD’s and has a new one coming out soon. The first song I heard him sing was “Maria” from West Side Story. I was mesmerized by his voice. And, after meeting him and spending time with him, I can tell you that he is not only an amazing singer …. he is a genuinely sincere young man with a beautiful soul. And, I will purchase every CD this man puts out … and you are going to hear me talk about him a lot … a whole lot!
Now, back to my birthday chronicle of events. As I said earlier, my birthday was the day after Juanita’s. It was a quiet day for the most part. (Hey …. I was tired!) I spent the day with my husband and receiving birthday calls, etc. I also spent the day reflecting upon the last week. I thought about all the people I had already become close to and how much I truly had come to love them. I thought about all the new friends I had met. I mentally went back to the High Tea and all the ladies in their beautiful hats, and the same ladies later … running around in their pajamas, chatting up a storm and laughing. The laughter …. oh, so much laughter. I remember a wonderful lady by the name of Jo (a young lady of 91 years old). What a beautiful and elegant lady (out-dancing me on the dance floor). I thought about the wonderful couple who honored us with their presence for a night. They had not seen Juanita for forty years, but immediately decided to fly in for one night to honor this lady.
I then thought about the center of every moment and experience of which I was blessed to be a part. That center is an incredible lady by the name of Juanita Ford whose accomplishments over the last 80 years are astounding. Perhaps none so astounding, however, as her ability to touch so many people’s lives, to mend broken wings … helping others not only to fly, but to soar. She exemplifies the definition of class and grace.
So how was my birthday? It was memorable and on my “Best Birthdays” list. My birthday this year is unforgettable because a very special lady shared her birthday with me. She is the wind beneath my wings.
(Video Highlights of the week to follow shortly …. it’s a real hoot!)