After years of beachside brunches, lovely floral arrangements and mimosa toasts, what do you do for a unique and memorable Mother’s Day? How about ditching the norm (well, keep the mimosas) and setting out on a road trip?! I got the idea from a friend who talked about wanting to do a cross-country drive in an Airstream. As I began planning, I thought back to all the road trips my family took in the ’80s to Palm Springs for tennis tournaments, to Camarillo for outlet shopping and up to Yosemite National Park, where I swore I saw a bear.
But this time, as grown women, we could enjoy the trip in a new way. My nana, Geneva, 83, has become much more sassy and confident in her old age. Joy, my mom, has never been short on sass, plus she’s eyeing a retirement from medicine. Naima, my sister, 32, lives in Harlem, and her busy life as an art curator leaves little time for sisterly phone calls. And at 30, I’m navigating the craziness of home ownership and trying to get my mom to stop derailing my savings plan with ploys of hitting Saks.
My plan? A weekend to celebrate my mom turning the big 6-0. Of course, the trip was even better considering our wheels: a rented plush, Beyoncé-worthy Airstream Interstate RV. It spoiled us with a minibathroom, a full bed, plenty of seating, stemware for some on-the-road bubbly and Pandora radio, which was essential for our Al Green sing-alongs.
And so it began: a four-and-one-half-hour, 275-mile journey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
And We’re Off
Despite some complaining from resident sleepyhead Naima, .we got on the road at 4:30 a.m. Trying to beat traffic out of the city., we piled in and gave ourselves 45 minutes to get to West Covina, where we agreed we could reward ourselves with venti caffe, no whip, extra- hot lattes with an extra shot of espresso for good measure. Although driving a huge RV seemed overwhelming at first, it was a surprisingly smooth ride, and the rearview camera made lane changes much easier.
Pulling the 23-foot-long RV into a Starbucks parking lot was quite a feat, especially in front of the looky-loos wondering what these Black women were doing trying to enter the drive-through. Fearing an accident and certain vacation buzzkill, Mom and Naima jumped out for the caffeine. Then after a tricky—and probably illegal—U-turn, we were back on the 10 Freeway: full tank of diesel, me at the wheel, Nana asleep in the back and New Edition bumping on Pandora just in time for sunrise.
Who knew Nana was a pinochle champ back in the day? Naima and I would have never guessed when we pulled out the cards and Connect Four. “Well, I don’t tell you girls everything,” smirked Nana. Born Geneva Carter in Detroit, Nana married the first man she ever dated. She met Wayne State University classmate Frank Simmons, a smooth-talking jock, and they soon got hitched. “You know, I think he went out with me because I could help him with his homework,” Nana said candidly. “Aww, but you two were so in love, c’mon now,” said Mom, a true daddy’s girl. “Well, the best thing was that he got us out of Detroit,” Nana said, imitating a cold shiver. The first in their families to leave Michigan, Nana and Grandfather moved to L.A. when he got a job at the Veterans Hospital. “I managed the money and made sure the bills were paid. We just divided up the responsibilities,” said Nana of their 33-year marriage. “I don’t know if that worked, but that’s all I knew. Nowadays, you girls are dating longer, and I guess, learning more about men.” Naima chuckled, realizing that Nana was trying to get her to divulge details about her own relationship. But just before Naima could comment, Nana piped up, .“Now all men my age want is a nurse with a purse.”. Nearly choking on her oatmeal, Mom busted out laughing and rolled her hazel eyes. “Never a dull moment.”
“Mom, what is up that demure look on your face? Be real; you’re trying too hard,” I said, laughing at a 1978 picture of my parents’ attempt to look sophisticated. “Shoot, my little ’fro was cute. And I was demure back then … sorta,” she said with a smirk. “And ya’ll wouldn’t have all those curls if I hadn’t married your father.” She loves to remind us that she gave us height, and he gave us our curly hair. .“Your daddy was a mack.
|back in the day. He may be square now, but he thought.he was Super Fly,”. said my mom, barely able to keep a straight face while flipping through photo albums. “Oh, Lord Jesus,” I said as we pulled into the gas station. “You just look so shy,” Naima added. But like her mother, Mom thought being reserved was how a wife should be. Thirty years later, Mama Joy wouldn’t know shy if it stared her in the face. “Oh, don’t get it twisted, girls; I was fly! A late bloomer, but Dr. Simmons was still fly when I met your father. He knew!” On that note, we hopped out of the RV just as “Single Ladies” came on, prompting a spontaneous photo shoot. Mom, of course, insisted she was Beyoncé. I got stuck as Michelle, only because Naima is brown-skinned like Kelly. The truckers in Barstow surely thought we were quite the sight dancing around the diesel pump.
After being unable to find the “Welcome to Las Vegas’” sign for a photo op, we pulled into the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s valet service. .First, up to our fabulous suite to chill five bottles of Veuve.. Hey, like Nana says: “It’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.” Next, lunch with cousin Nicole, who surprised Mom by flying in from Detroit—of course, all a part of my master plan. “Cheers to being sexy at 60,” Nicole toasted. “Yay!” Mom shouted before insisting we stop for some shopping at Donna Karan, her fave. “After two marathons and all this working out, why do I still need these darn Spanx?” she asked while trying on a gown. Nicole chimes in, “Girl, who are you telling? We’ve got those Simmons hips.” Finally, I know what they’re talking about. After years of being naturally skinny, I now own three different kinds of shapewear to combat jiggle. “Diet starts next week,” I said as we walked through Louis Vuitton. “Right,” Naima co-signed.
Before heading to dinner at STK, a little photo shoot was in order. Smoky eyes? Check. Too-tight dress? Check. Mom’s best friends for more than 30 years? Yay! In walk two more surprises: Lynn and Grace, my mom’s BFFs who came to Vegas to celebrate. Taking along two bottles of Veuve, we head out. (Hey, corkage fees are much cheaper than any restaurant’s wine list!) “Ladies, I’m so glad you’re all here,” Mom said, beaming and holding up her flute. “We’ve been through it all: marriages, a lot of divorces, babies, jobs. We’ve done it all. Thank you for being there for me and being the amazing women you are. Cheers!” After two bottles, three courses and a round of Patrón Anejo shots, we’re off to Marquee nightclub (sans Nana). .Three 60-year-olds, one 50-something and two. 30-somethings—the bouncers couldn’t help but smile..
“Never hit the tables without a plan,” Nicole advised, sounding like she knew from not-so-lucky past experiences. “That’s why I stick to penny slots,” Grace chimed in. Feet sore but egos pumped up after some football players tried to holler at our multigenerational clique, we headed off to gamble. But after a few rounds on the Sex and the City-themed slots, the birthday girl was ready for bed. “Get some sleep, ladies. More fun tomorrow,” said Naima, ever the tour guide and trip planner. To which Grace replied, “There better be! I left [my husband] Michael at home!”
Brunch, Booty & Baby Talk
An all-you-can-eat brunch is a Vegas must. Caesars Palace had the new hot spot to try. After rounds of Bloody Marys, mimosas and too many crab legs to count, we were by far the loudest group in the restaurant. In between the cackles and requisite “Giiiirl” quips, nearby tables could hear bursts of, “Can you believe we were dropping it on the dance floor?” Followed by, “You still got it!” Mmmhmm. Admittedly, Mom and her friends have come full circle .living life as if they’re in their.
.20s, except now with more money. and even more gumption. “Let me just see the day when my girls have little girls of their own, Lord Jesus,” Mom said, gesturing with a piece of bacon. Grace shot off, “Well I’ve got, like, 10 grandkids, so you can have some of mine.”
No Place Like Home
“I never want to see another glass of champagne,”. Mom said, clutching her Starbucks. “You know you had fun, Mom,” Naima reassured. Getting back on the road to drive home, Mom started to recall all the over-the-top birthdays she’d had: On her 55th, we rented out a club and packed it with 200 friends and family. Her 50th included a house party with custom-made cookies that looked like Manolos. “Whew! You’ve done it all, Joy,” Nana said while shaking her head. Birthdays have always been a big deal to us. As kids, every month our whole family would get together at my grandfather’s house to celebrate the folks who had birthdays that month. “I’ll be 84 this year, girls,” Nana said. “That just means we’ve got to do something extra special,” I said, shooting Naima a wink to let her know we needed to start planning and scheming. “Oh, no! No trip or big to-do; just you girls—the four of us. That’ll be just fine,” Nana replied.