After so many years, there was no need to rush things. In fact, it was time to savor the moment. Approximately 125 friends and family joined Esther Wood Saturday afternoon to celebrate her 100th birthday. Given by her children, Tom and Dianne Wood and Mildred and Jerry Wright, the party was held at Thomson First United Methodist Church where Ms. Wood still attends regularly.
"I think it's really nice," Ms. Wood said as she enjoyed the festivities. "But I ought to hide," she added with a twinkle in her eyes, as she covered her face with her hands.
When the family was getting their things together to go home after the two-hour drop-in, Mrs. Wright said it was no surprise that her mother seemed a little tired, and they expected her to rest when she got home.
"But she changed her clothes, and then it was like she had renewed energy," Mrs. Wright said. "She stayed up until nine o'clock that night, and she was just happy as a lark."
And the celebration continued the next day, when Ms. Wood opened all the cards that she received. As she read who they were from, Ms. Wood remembered aloud seeing the people at her party, many of whom she hadn't seen in quite a while.
"She enjoyed reading all of them, every word," Mrs. Wright said. "And she asked 'How am I going to let everybody know that I appreciate them coming?' She was reliving it all the next day, and it's truly amazing, it really is."
Even though she's a century old, Ms. Wood still is doing well both physically and mentally. Her only problem is she doesn't hear very well. Mrs. Wright said the doctor said her mother has no heart, cholesterol or blood pressure problems like many elderly people, and she takes very little medication.
"And she never complains that she has a headache or a foot ache or of anything hurting," Mrs. Wright said. "She'll say sometimes that she's tired or sleepy, but never any pain. In so many ways, we really are very, very fortunate. So few people can keep their parents at this age, particularly in the home."
Ms. Wood alternates weeks sleeping at her son's and daughter's house, and she goes to her own house during the day, where she crochets, reads and looks at cards and pictures that family members send in the mail.
"And she's real particular about how she looks. She doesn't come out in the morning until she has her makeup on, her earrings and her watch. She's very particular that her lipstick is just right," Mrs. Wright said, adding that Ms. Wood is able to do all this herself.
Ms. Wood attends church several times a month, where she is a member of the Osme Sunday School Class. And she has attended camp meeting at White Oak Campground almost every year since she was born. Many of her fellow Sunday School members and camp meeting attendees came to the party Saturday.
"I grew up going to camp meeting with her," said Betty Joyce Tankersley Walters, from Ocilla, Ga. "I remember her whit. She used to pull so many pranks at camp meeting, like putting frogs or sand in our bed. There's a lot of happy memories like that. And her good cooking, and her hospitality was wonderful."
Mrs. Wright said her mother loved to cook, and "made the best pound cakes."
"And she made good biscuits. They were always very small, but they were tasty. And that's the way my Daddy liked them," she said. "She often said she was not a good cook like her own mother was, but she was. She was a great cook."
Ms. Wood was married to Tom Wood, Sr., for almost 63 years before his death in 1997. In addition to their two children and their spouses who all live in Thomson, the couple has five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
"It's really weird," great-granddaughter Rebekah Carnes, 9, of Woodstock, Ga., said Saturday about her great-grandmother turning 100. "But I want her to live 16 more years, so she'll be the oldest. I looked on Yahoo, and the oldest person died when they were 115."
The marquee at White Columns wished Ms. Wood a Happy 100th Birthday Saturday, as did announcements on WTHO radio. Mrs. Wright said people would call and say they had seen the sign or heard the radio, and "that was real special to us. We were thrilled." And it marvels her that her mother is 100. Mrs. Wright said her perception of "old people" has always been "stoop-shouldered with long white hair in a bun."
But mother's not like that," she said. "So, it's sort of strange, the different generations and how the longevity works out. She told me the other day, 'Don't forget now, you are still the daughter, and I'm the mama.'"
ESTHER REESE WOOD
BORN: January 31, 1909, in McDuffie County, where she always has lived.
CHILDREN: Tom (Dianne) Wood and Mildred (Jerry) Wright
GRANDCHILDREN: Lynn (Perry) Hobbs, Thomson
Melanie (Chester) Taylor, Cartersville
Jay (Julia) Wright, Charlotte, N.C.
Pam (Brian) Carnes, Woodstock
Al Wood (deceased)
GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN: Kim and April Hobbs
Chet and Crawford Taylor
Jackson and Jarrett Wright
Sarah and Rebekah Carnes