In a comfy chair, her legs covered with a snowflake-patterned blanket, Audrey Lott shimmies, showing off moves from her dancing days.
"I can still shake my butt," she says matter-of-factly as she reminisces about her life, then and now.
But before she is in the mood to chat, she secures promises of treats ... ice cream, bananas, candy. Cake, she says. She wants cake.
Wait, visitors say, Mrs. Lott's birthday is still days away.
With great indignation she declares: "It doesn't have to be my birthday to have cake."
Birthdays? She's had a few. ... OK, quite a few.
On Friday, Mrs. Lott will join an elite group called supercentenarians, those who are 110 or older. Born Oct. 18, 1903, she is one of the oldest people on the planet.
More and more people are living to the century mark, but few live 10 years beyond 100. Lists online try to keep track of supercentenarians, celebrities by virtue of age alone. Seems only right to give special notice to folks who have lived with the "senior citizen" label for more than 50 years.
Her secret to longevity? A splash of Scotch on the rocks, and not the cheap stuff. She knows the difference.
Hers is a perky, plucky personality. A whirlwind blend. Saucy, spicy, sassy. Capped off with a smile as bright as 110 flaming candles on a birthday cake.
For sure, she has a fan club of staff members at the St. Francis Home in Tiffin, where she has lived since 2002. Staff adore her, in large part because Mrs. Lott is living a life where age is an inspiration, and she refuses to be defined by the number of birthdays.
A storyteller, she stitches together tales -- the very fabric of her life -- such as serving lunch to first ladies Bess Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt when she was a waitress at the Daughters of the American Revolution House in Washington. Mrs. Truman was quiet, Mrs. Lott recalled. Mrs. Roosevelt was friendly and would talk to Audrey, who noted she shook hands with her. "She was very nice."
The granddaughter of a former slave, Audrey is a native of the nation's capital, where she attended the first public high school for black students. Eldest of four children, she enrolled in pharmacology school but dropped out and worked to support her family after her father, who worked at a fish market, got tuberculosis and died at age 35.
Her husband Grant Taylor died at a young age; their child, also named Grant, was the first black postmaster in Tiffin, about 55 miles southeast of Toledo.
After Mrs. Lott's second husband, Clentis Lott, died, she moved in the 1960s to Tiffin to be near her son. She did housework for a local family and later lived at Kiwanis Manor of Tiffin until age 99, when she broke her hip.
Although Mrs. Lott's 110th birthday party on Tuesday is for her friends and relatives, the community has been invited to shower Mrs. Lott with birthday cards. Mrs. Lott has received a congratulatory message from Gov. John Kasich, noted Jennifer Montoney, life enrichment coordinator at the St. Francis Home.
At times Mrs. Lott's mind drifts to sand and ocean waves. She stretches out as though settling into a beach chair, even though she tends to shun the sun. Her favorite season? Winter. If you're cold, you can always bundle up. But if you're hot, she said, you can only peel off so many clothes.
Tugging at childhood memories -- events from more than 100 years ago -- she recalled Halloween pranks of kicking over trash cans.
She revels in recollections of jump jivin' nights at dance halls where, oh, goodness, she shimmied her pants off -- while dancing with a cute boy -- and her friends immediately circled her, providing privacy as she pulled her pants back on.
Days away from her 110th birthday, she dances only in her memories. She loves listening to music.
Music will be featured at her party, and as talk turns to celebratory plans, Mrs. Lott's eyes widen.
She asks: "Will I be the guest of honor?" Most definitely, considering she is one of the oldest people on the planet -- older than most of the 7 billion inhabitants on Earth.
When asked about big-deal news events during her long life, she scoffs at the mention of men landing on the moon. What a waste of money, she said. And why on Earth did they bother going there in the first place? "They didn't find anything," she said.
Conversation returns to food. She loves cake, raw onions, chocolate, collard greens, cake, cabbage, sweet potatoes, cake, and kale. She figures she's lived to be 110 because she favors fresh food.
Years ago, she said, "Everybody had a garden."
Mrs. Lott knows what she likes and what she doesn't, such as crowds.
But she figures she'll do just fine when guests gather for her party.
After all, she's the guest of honor. And there's going to be cake.
By Janet Romaker - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
(c)2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
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