Happy birthday to my mom, who would be 85 today. This is one of my favorite photos of her, from one of the best times we ever had together, in Munich, 1981.

She sold some of her treasured Madame Alexander dolls to afford to fly (for the first time) to see me when I was a student in Munich, navigating airport changes in NYC and customs in Dusseldorf by herself before arriving in Munich in a blizzard. My father had died shortly before, and she was still in shock, I believe. But she made it.

We traveled together to Salzburg, Austria, for the Sound of Music tour, which was her one request for the trip. She wanted to see all the places from the Sound of Music, and we did.

We ate fondue in Switzerland one snowy evening after playing Bingo in our little Inn and winning a cow, and she, Southern Baptist teetotaler that she was, got drunk on the fondue: “IT’S GETTING REALLY WARM IN HERE,” she said, slurring her words. We got thrown off a train in the middle of nowhere in Switzerland by a large man in a grey wool coat who screamed at us in languages unknown for having the wrong ticket and I took a photo of her fake-crying underneath the bus sign we found trying to figure out how to get back to Munich.

We met up with my friends from the semester and all traveled to Amsterdam together for our flight home. I remember sitting on tiny pull-down seats in the corridor of the train to Amsterdam talking to my friend Howard Holden all night, watching countries go by. I remember finding a cheap hostel on a boat in a canal in Amsterdam that my mother wouldn’t sleep in, saved by Elizabeth Johnson who took her to a hotel. I remember taking my mother to the Van Gogh museum and the Anne Frank house.

I remember visiting my friend Henk Bruins and his family outside of Amsterdam and my mother being bewildered that they didn’t drink sweet iced tea.

I remember a man approaching us on the street in Amsterdam and asking my mother if she wanted to buy some hash: Her considerably large eyes got even larger: “HASH BROWNS?” she said. “I LOVE HASH BROWNS!”

Happy birthday, Mama. The end times were tough, but there was a lot of laughter before then.