AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
Happy April! I am looking forward to this month with great anticipation and pleasure. March was one of the most amazing months of my life. And for good reason. March 1st I, with the help of good friends and family, started celebrating Peter’s 90th birthday. I decided we would make his birthday period begin at the beginning of the month and not end until April 1st. No fooling! And what a joyful time this has been. Rather than having a large party, Peter preferred having intimate gatherings where we could have meaningful, memorable times with loved ones. We got in the swing on day one and have not stopped.
Dear friends, Kerri and Matt, came down from New Hampshire to get things rolling. They’d had a snowstorm the night before but were able to come in time for lunch at our favorite waterfront restaurant, Dog Watch Café. When Kerri called to say they’d be an hour late, I used the time to gather some party favors, select a pretty tablecloth, napkins, candles and flowers. March first was one of the happiest days of our lives. We laughed ourselves to tears and we felt the blessings of Peter’s well-lived life in his 90 years.
Our daughter Alexandra – AB Stoddard – was on MSNBC at 2 PM, and the owner of the restaurant switched the television station from sports to politics in order for us to watch her on the show. We couldn’t hear her every word in the noisy party atmosphere of this most popular restaurant, but we were delighted we were able to watch her, and this is always such a priority for Peter and me. We believe we are AB’s greatest fans, and if this isn’t 100% accurate, we are her most loyal ones.
We had a dessert and a friend made Key Lime pie – one of Peter’s favorites. The entire restaurant sang to Peter – Happy Birthday! Peter’s birthday is March 15th, but the singing was important to get things swinging in high gear.
I had flashbacks in my memory of having a black tie dinner party for Peter on his sixtieth birthday – how quickly those years – 30 years – have gone by, and how differently we are living them now. When we are young we feel sorry for old people, and in many ways, this is reasonable. However, a young person has no experience being old and until that time, can’t really pass judgment.
Peter is now having the time of his life. He feels deeply loved and equally grateful for his happiness. Not everyone has the good fortune to be 90. And, when some people do achieve this marking, while they have longevity, they might not have their health or their humor or a sense of satisfaction in their lives.
Peter is writing a book about his happiest memories, the moments as big as years when you feel the great sense of joy and appreciation, the exhilaration of being alive. One of his essays in his book, Keep Figuring It Out is about approaching his 90th birthday. What is remarkable to me, as his constant companion in our shared intimate lives, is how much pleasure Peter feels in his daily life. The outpouring of love, affection and attention has increased his energy and makes him feel young at heart. His daughter Blair gave him a book by one of his favorite authors, Dr. Seuss, You’re Only Old Once! and he laughs often in relief as he realizes how fortunate he is. And while nothing lasts forever, and nothing stays the same, these March days were as magical as could possibly be, and knowing how uncertain life is and there are no guarantees, I feel so grateful his gift from me to celebrate his birthday in Paris was such a success.
I told my literary agent not to be in touch with me while we were in Paris – good or bad news can wait. I chose to devote myself to Peter and enjoy and savor every sacred moment. Of course, I would have loved to have heard from my publisher that they were happy with my book, but, interestingly, I was not nervous or fearful and spent my energy working on my next projects.
Paris opened her arms to us in all her splendor. Peter tells anyone who will listen that it was his favorite time in his favorite city. The first question everyone asks is, “How was the weather?” The weather actually was splendid, but, what if it were dreadful? Would that mean we would have a miserable time? The weather is enormously important in all our lives. When the sun is out and we have warmth on our backs, we feel exhilarated. But, in Paris, we often experience “Paris weather,” and we adjust and adapt and find ways to experience the splendor of the events as they unfold.
Funny, but the only time it rained in the daytime was when there was a sudden flash flood and we were out and about in it and all its glory. We found shelter, had a delicious meal, and we and our clothes eventually dried out. The reality is that Paris has climate changes, and in our eight days, the temperature changed more than 40 degrees. Sounds similar to Connecticut. We had 76 degree sunny, glorious weather the day we left Paris, arriving in New York City to a near record 75 degrees for the date, only to have the thermometer drop to 28 degrees the next night.
One of the lessons we learn from travel and the weather is that there are powerful forces that are beyond our ability to change and often outside our field of knowledge. Just a few days ago a sunny blue sky turned dark. A huge, totally unexpected storm swept through our area, causing flash floods – and everyone without umbrellas. Whenever it rains in Stonington, we smile and say we are experiencing “Paris weather.”
The only part of Peter’s Paris birthday celebration he really didn’t appreciate was our visit to the Eiffel Tower. I first visited this iconic Paris landmark in 1959 on my trip around the world. Peter, alas, had never been to the Eiffel Tower. I felt, as part of his 90th birthday celebration, he should experience this giant erector set that dominates this beautiful city and is lit up at night. Our visit was his only speck of dirt in our magical vacation. Cold, long lines, crowds and Peter wondering why he was there. “I feel I’m in a cage. Let’s get out of here.” At dinner, at a restaurant half the way up, he was glad we had a rotten seat next to the kitchen because Peter was afraid of height and worried we’d be blown away.
Now he is in his 91st year and in his post-Eiffel Tower experience. We’ve laughed many times because we’re often in restaurants and cafés near this towering piece of architecture. Close up, when we saw people climbing up the outer stairs, I really feel that he thought I was going to subject him to climbing to the top on foot.
Every aspect of our Paris experience was glorious and Peter smiles as he remembers our evening in “the giant cage.” For the first several days, there were Spring truffles and I was happy I encouraged Peter to share my passion. What a remarkable feeling for me to be serving Peter ambrosia in truffle risotto, rather than having him giving the ones on his plate to me. Truffles are seasonal and suddenly – and it felt abruptly, they vanished. There were no truffles anywhere. The wisdom of honoring the seasons was clear. We enjoyed and savored some truffle moments when they were in season and available. We were at the banquet and have some delightful memories. Now, we will anticipate a new experience in the future, grateful we engaged in this exceptionally sensuous delight, together, in Paris.
Science is finally catching up with what we all know to be obvious. Love lights up the brain, and when we are in a loving relationship with our spouse, our family and friends, our brain, our immune system, our body, thrive. And, studies show, we can expect to live a long, healthy, happy life when we are in loving, safe relationships with others.
Peter and I believe Robert Browning was right when he poetically told us that the best is yet to be. April will inevitably be full of many surprises. I intend to carpe diem. The publisher is pleased with my book. I am curious what the edits will teach me. In the meantime, I find great joy in our quiet daily lives together. I’m in the process of thinking and re-thinking what books I’m most passionate to write next. It is often in silent moments of calm that I feel the greatest joy and realize my simple forms of happiness.
Upon our return from Paris we discovered a pink hyacinth in our back yard. There are buds everywhere and the daffodils around the village are cheerful signs of spring and the scent makes me smile.
Love & Live Happy
Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.
Happy 90th birthday Peter!
Been there ... done that. For Peter, once in a lifetime!
Our Paris Home
Our favorite place for people watching.
One of Alexandra's favorite photos of Peter in front of Claude Monet's house in Giverney.
Enjoying time together at Dog Watch Cafe.
Figure It Out: A Guide to Wisdom
Please consider giving Peter's new book to family and friends for the holidays. Make checks for $25.00 per book to:
The Stonington Free Library
Peter Megargee Brown
87 Water Street
Stonington, CT 06378
Peter will pay shipping. Your contribution is 100% tax deductible.
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who made our soul blossom.