The First of Our “Silver Linings” Series, Highlighting The Many Surprising Positives Amid The Pandemic
~ by, Francisco Castro
Birthdays are special and happy occasions. And if the person is turning 100-years-old, that just makes it momentous.
That’s why even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a family in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley had to adapt and make changes, but still managed to celebrate their matriarch, Mary Louise Lopez, who reached the century mark in June.
“Honey” –as she’s known to her family— is mother to three, grandmother to eight and great-grandmother to 7 ½ (one is on the way).
For months, the family had planned a big birthday bash in the home where “Honey” has lived for nearly 70 years, but when the coronavirus hit, they turned to a proven mode in this difficult times—a driveway serenade and a drive-thru celebration.
It was the perfect combination of a happy, socially distant event to commemorate Honey, who picked cotton in her youth and was also a “Rosie the Riveter” when she worked for Lockheed during World War II.
And they hit all the marks of a good birthday bash: music, food, and family and friends.
A mariachi group played from the edge of the house as Honey sat with huge silver-colored balloon numbers spelling 100 in the back some distance away. The serenade was for her, but the music spread through the block and neighbors came out of their homes to enjoy it as well.
Honey, who loves to dance, proved she’s still got some moves in her, getting up to dance with relatives here and there to her favorite songs.
The birthday girl was all smiles and did not stop letting out the “mariachi grito” from time to time, showing she’s still got the lungs as well.
Champurrado (a chocolate-based atole), tamales and all sorts of Mexican breakfast goodies were given away to those who passed by or showed up to the house.
Cars adorned with birthday signs and full of screaming well-wishers –including several Los Angeles Police Department vehicles that also passed by with their sirens saluting the now centenarian—passed by the house, some several times.
Neighbors and friends also showed up carrying gifts (flowers were a favorite) and signs to wish Honey a Happy Birthday from afar, as relatives streamed in and out around the house, trying to keep a safe distance but succumbing to the inevitable hugs and kisses (wearing masks). You just can’t stay away from grandma.
The good vibes and happiness were palpable among the family, friends and neighbors gathered at the home. Some joined in singing as the mariachi music streamed for more than an hour, and the house turned into party central for the entire block.
A good party is one you’ll be talking about for days to come. And there was plenty at this celebration to remember.
Most of all, it was a way to remember that with a little imagination and some adaptation, we can still have fun, enjoy ourselves and mark those special moments.
And it never hurts to have a little Mariachi music to celebrate them.
Francisco Castro was born in El Salvador and graduated from California State University Northridge. He has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing for English and Spanish media in Los Angeles.
The volunteers and staff of This American Quarantine hope you enjoyed this positive story. We will be bringing you good news and inspirational stories each week in our new column, Silver Linings. You can also share YOUR story with us – it may be featured in the Blog or even win you the chance to tell your tale on the podcast. Tweet, email us.