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“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.

Vegas, Baby

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.

Birthday Girl

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..

Lady Luck

“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,”