Happy Birthday, Chris

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security.” (Psalm  37:3)

I frequently tell my friend, Chris Metzger, that I want to be just like her when I grow up. Many of us here in Houston have spent a considerable portion of September celebrating her 100th birthday with her. It started when we sang happy birthday to her at water aerobics at the YMCA. Our leader said he wanted us to be the first to do so. The Y staff also sang to her and put up signs wishing her a “Happy Birthday” around the lobby and in the dressing room.

The party continued the following Wednesday afternoon when some twenty people showed up for lunch together at her favorite Mexican restaurant near her home. This is the third September that I’ve gone to a birthday luncheon for her at that location. She’s a bit of a celebrity there. In attendance were our current Y gang, some former aerobic class members, and a few spouses. She was also greeted by a couple of her bridge buddies from the monthly bridge group that meets in the restaurant’s back room.

She continued the celebration a week later when her family from New York City, Louisiana, New England and London, England came to town to join her Houston family for the celebrations. Chris reports thirty-seven of them had dinner together at a local restaurant one evening.

They all gathered to host the main event – a reception for her at the family’s congregation – Holy Spirit Episcopal Church. I don’t know the official account of people who stood in a very long line to wish her “Happy Birthday.” However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number wasn’t over three hundred. So busy was she greeting all her well wishers that she didn’t even get to sample the tables full of delicious appetizers her family arranged to have served. That event was last Sunday. She was at the Y the following Monday morning, grinning as she told us about the party after the party back at the house where she was hosting some of the out-of-town family.

Chris has seen the introduction of travel by interstate or air. She has witnessed two world wars and all the ones to follow after the second one to end all wars. She has witnessed the introduction of television and Internet. As an English teacher and then school librarian she helped hundreds of young people navigate the world of words. She still cooks. She taught me how to make her renowned authentic Louisiana gumbo.

She is one of my dog sitters when we travel. The summer of 2016 was the summer she finally conceded maybe she did need to hire some help to keep up with the gardening. Our Y group gave her a subscription to a monthly crossword puzzle magazine for her ninety-ninth birthday. We renewed it for her this year. She says she limits herself to only three puzzles a day in order to make the magazine last a month. Her grandson, Jay, who lives with her, says she supplements the magazine though with puzzles from books he gets for her.

When I asked her what was one of the most surprising things she’d seen in her long and fruitful life she told me, “Social media. I have to get a new dictionary. Mine doesn’t have all these new terms and I need to know them for my crossword puzzles.”

In an era when there’s a now nearly a report a night of an active shooter or determined bomber of some variety somewhere, I find it truly refreshing to have a friend like Chris. She has spent a full century humbly and faithfully raising a family, serving others, tending to her home and neighbors, and socializing with her many adoring friends. I would like to be just like her when I grow up. I value her friendship as one of my prized situations. One more Happy Birthday to you, Chris. And many more.

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