|There was one sentence at the bottom of the invitation that
was driving me crazy. It said "No Gifts Please." The invitation was from my Dad
inviting me, Laurence and the kids to my mother's birthday party. And this wasn't just any
birthday, this was a big one. I don't want to blow my mother's secret of exactly how old
she is, let's just suffice it to say that she looks at least twenty years younger than she
is, and I'm thrilled (after all I have her genes don't I?) Dad had a big family party
planned at a lovely hotel. But it didn't feel right, I just couldn't stand the idea of
this milestone passing by without giving mom something. I kept racking my brain, wasn't
there something I (or we, as I have three brothers) could do that was a gift without being
a gift? I know that Mom doesn't need any more knickknacks, perfume, jewelry or
"World' Greatest Mom" trophies, but still, I wanted to mark the occasion by
giving her something. Maybe I was being selfish myself, after all, the old adage
"It's better to give than receive" is true, I wanted to see my Mom's face light
up on her birthday because of something I did. Oh well, I guessed I would have to settle
for writing a touching, speech to read out loud as a toast. Dad had requested that we all
have a few words prepared.
I began thinking of the words I would say and how I could wrap up everything my mother means to me in a page or so. She is a wonderful lady with warmth, humor and intelligence and let's not forget talent. I started thinking about how after I was grown, my mom started to pursue her interest in art. At first it was silk screen, but then sculpting caught her fancy and for the last twenty years or so she has been quietly chiseling alabaster into beautiful works of art that are spread around the house. I was also thinking about all of the recognition that my dad gets for his talent. There are awards, dinners and honors, all in recognition of his artistic achievements, and I was thinking how nice it would be if somehow we could pay tribute to my mother's talents. I know that my mother never thinks about it that way, she's as proud of my dad as she can be, but wouldn't it be great.
That's it! It hit me! The perfect idea. I called my brother Lloyd on the phone. "I have an idea for a birthday present for Mom.....we are going to rent an art gallery and throw a surprise exhibition of her work!". There was a pause and then he said something to the effect of "That's brilliant" or "Genius" I don't remember, I was distracted by all of the details that would need seeing to if we were going to pull this off. All I knew was that he was in, and my other brothers would be, too. I was sure, and they were.
Lloyd got straight to the point, he suggested that we go and look at possible art galleries right away. We headed off to La Cienega, where all of the cool galleries in L.A. seem to be, and parked the car. We anticipated spending all afternoon looking for just the right place, but instinct (or just plain luck) headed us into the first gallery. It was perfect. Set off the street, with a charming courtyard area. The woman who ran the gallery was so delighted with the idea, once we explained our intentions, she enthusiastically chirped "I'm in!". However, she did request some photos of Mom's work so that she could rest assured that she felt comfortable exhibiting it. Not an unreasonable request.
It was going to require some sneaking around, and we would have to let Dad in on the surprise. We scheduled a meeting with Dad, supposedly to discuss a new project. This happens from time to time, so it's not too suspicious. I brought my Polaroid camera and made sure the meeting was taking place during Mom's weekly beauty parlor appointment. When we told Dad what the meeting was actually about, he was so touched, there were tears in his eyes. It was all systems go, actually systems ended up going faster than we thought. Dad felt that we should move the date of the exhibit up so that Mom's sister and her husband would still be in town for the party. That left us two weeks to pull it all together.
My oldest brother Don and his wife Betty were in charge of invitations, Ross, my youngest brother was put in control of champagne and beverages, and Lloyd and I split all other responsibilities. We worked feverishly on all the details and in fear of somebody spoiling the surprise. I hired a moving company that specializes in art and antiques, and a catering company. Laurence agreed to play at the gallery, which we thought was an added touch.
We decided to tell Mom at her birthday party. After all it wouldn't be fair to her to have a moving truck pull up on Sunday morning at 8am and start removing things without her being somewhat prepared. That way she could choose what to wear to the gallery, and rest up the day before.
We framed an invitation to the exhibition and wrapped it as a gift. At her party (which was lovely) we presented it to her and watched as she seemed completely bewildered. We had to convince her that it was really happening, I guess she thought it was some sort of gesture.
This particular weekend was becoming extremely busy for Laurence. He was working on a score for Danny Elfman on Friday and Saturday, and then a "7th Heaven" session came in for Sunday morning, the day of the exhibit.
Sunday morning I awoke early and was up at my parents house by 8:30am. A big guy named Rico arrived in a moving truck with two other men. It was an enormous and delicate operation. They wrapped each piece carefully. They drove so slowly with hazard lights on, it took them ½ hour to drive two miles to the gallery. Once there, we had to set up all of the sculptures. It looked incredible! Only after I saw all of the pieces together in one room did I realize the scope of the work. When my brother Lloyd entered the room and saw it for the first time, he actually got misty.
LJ learned that he would have to return to the movie session at 5pm, so he came early to set up and play as long as he could. What an incredible day! It was a smash success from beginning to end. Even some people we didn't know, who were gallery-hopping on La Cienega, happened upon the exhibit and were quite taken with it, questioning my mother, the artist, about the work.
A few people even questioned her about the "hired" guitarist. After it was all over, and the art was taken back up to my parent's house, we were all exhausted. Mom called me to say that it was the most meaningful gift anyone had ever given her.
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