Fifty Swimmingos

The other day I sent out invitations to my upcoming 50th Birthday Celebration that I’ve jokingly referred to as the “Queen’s Golden Jubilee”…and now I’m left thinking…fifty? Fifty??! FIFTY!!! Like…honest to goodness…when did THAT happen? I’m too young to be FIFTY! There’s obviously a mistake on my birth certificate or we’ve fallen into some weird worm-hole time continuum but also…my body aches, I’m slower than I used to be, I’m deep into menopause and I’m feeling a little shaky and foggy emotionally…but FIFTY? REALLY??!! How can that possibly be?

Also, can we just pause for a wee moment and discuss how long it took me to make that lovely ribbon that goes through the font in the word “fifty”! (ie, I had nothing else to do apparently as it took me FOREVER!)

But seriously…I’m going to be FIFTY!?

It seems it was yesterday that my mother turned 50 and yet…here we are…two months away from a potential flock of swimmingos gracing my own front lawn for all the neighbours to see!

I said SWIMMINGOS! You know…the tropical pink wading birds that have long legs with backward-bending knees and long fragile necks.


You see…20-odd years ago, my mother celebrated her 50th and that morning, with family in town for the big day, we awoke to fifty plastic pink flamingos strewn all over our front lawn with a “Happy 50th Maureen” sign and no sweet clue who the culprit was.

Mom was MORTIFIED. Not only was her well manicured lawn now tacked up with plastic pink lawn ornaments…but the entire neighbourhood would know her age at a time when people hid how old they were! (Unlike nowadays when people like me throw a Jubilee.)

In no time, Emily was tip-toeing through the “swimmingos” stopping to hug, kiss, and chit-chat with each and every one of them as they fast became her “very best friends in the whole wide world.” Throughout the day, various family members took turns walking the baby in and out and through the plastic birds as IT WAS ABSOLUTELY ADORABLE! In fact, I’m pretty sure I have video of it somewhere. (Reminder to self…have family videos moved over to DVD.) It was a GRAND celebration with family flying in for the big event and a feed of Chinese the likes I’ve never seen again.

That evening, when sweet baby Emily was tucked into bed dreaming of her new long-legged friends, there was a knock on the door and in walked my Uncle Ron (fresh off a flight from Newfoundland) carrying a pink plastic bird under his arm…officially ending the mystery of “who tacked up the front lawn.”

From that day forward, flamingos in our home were lovingly referred to as “swimmingos” based on the wrong pronunciation of an overly excited and adorable 18 month old and her new favourite (albeit not very cuddly) friend that she dragged around by the neck and slept with for multiple years.

Megan and I spent a bit of time a few weeks ago in sunny-Florida and enjoyed a moment with the swimmingos at Busch Gardens. It reminded me of the plastic ones in our yard…of mom’s 50th…and my upcoming celebration as well!

I thought of how a moment in time could change the entire name of a species of birds for one family…how a birthday joke could become a child’s favoured toy…how that toy may or may not have been used as a funnel at university years later…and how in the middle of Busch Gardens twenty odd years after my mother turned 50, another child in the family who only ever heard the story through family lore, could suddenly see a flock of pink birds and yell “SWIMMINGOS!” while posting for a photo.

How amazing it is to soon be turning 50…while solidly standing on both feet…albeit with a neck that feels a little bit fragile…and knees that at any moment, could bend the other way.

2 Replies to “Fifty Swimmingos”

  1. I love a good plastic pink flamingo story!

    I felt ashamed for so many years that in university a lubricated group of friends and I stole through the neighbourhood one Friday night swiping pink flamingos, ducks and anything fowl from nearby lawns.

    Luckily, I got older and wiser. The ‘wiser’ part happened a few months ago when I hit 50, I think. A bit wiser anyway. I love we’re the same age! 🙂