Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The 168th Post in which Child One ACTUALLY turns 18 and Sig Other is inconsolable...

Raucous Bollywood celebrations aside, Child One’s actual birthday is today.  And notwithstanding her deeply held belief that the 4th of July is a national holiday held in anticipation of her date of birth, this is the day, eighteen years ago when the little rosy cheeked, tow-headed girl entered the world. I wasn’t there that day.  I didn’t come into her life for many years after.  I feel weirdly guilty about that - an irrational guilt to be sure. But I take joy in her 18th birthday nonetheless.

Sig Other, however, is inconsolable.  He moves from stoic lamentation to breast-beating sorrow with hummingbird-wing rapidity and desires only to stay at home and mope.  No celebration is appropriate, no declaration great enough, no gift big enough to express his feelings about his first born coming of age.  To watch him suffer, one would assume there was something terribly, terribly wrong. 

In fact, there is nothing terribly wrong at all.  Child One has done exactly as asked.  She has grown up quite beautifully.  She has, with the greatest of both hesitation and grace, transformed from scared little girl to forthcoming young woman.  If you asked her, four years ago, about future plans, she would not have known how to answer.  She could not imagine leaving home, couldn’t imagine going to school out of town much less across the country and would never have thought of traveling the world on her own in search of adventure, education and justice.  Sig Other used to sit at the dinner table and repeat over and over again that it was her great fortune, not to mention her responsibility and obligation, to take advantage of the opportunity in front of her – to grasp at what had eluded us and strive for the possibility of better education, greater horizons, deeper experience.  Tears would stream down her face as he would look deep in her eyes and say, “you will graduate and leave us – you will go to a great school on the east coast and get an amazing education and meet interesting people and form deep relationships that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”  And she would say no – she would never leave home, would never go far away, would never want to be a grown up.  Yet here she is, 18 years old, about to leave for a summer volunteering at a school in Israel before starting her future at a fancy east coast school.  She has become all Sig Other ever hoped.   And all he can do is lament. 

“This is what you raised her for,” I say to him.  “This is what you insisted she do.  You’ve done an amazing job.  She is fulfilling every dream you had for her.”  “I know,” he says, “but I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t really want her to leave.”  He says this as we drive home from her birthday dinner and I imagine the evening before us – Sig Other sitting on the floor going through albums of baby pictures and listening to a mix-tape of Rafi and Paul Simon.  He doesn’t do this, of course.  He tucks his pain away and rather stoically goes to his office to fiddle with a faulty computer program.  But I know he is suffering.  I know he is in pain.  I feel guilty that we can’t sit on the floor with a bottle of wine and reminisce about her colicky infancy and adorable toddlerhood.    I wasn’t there for those moments.  I missed her first words and first steps and first taste of delicious rice cereal.  I’ve been there for my share of tears and vomiting and runny noses and pain – been there enough for lots of anxiety and some pain, a few hurt feelings and a few misunderstandings.  And of course for lots of cuddling and laughs and more joy than I could ever have imagined before she or Child Two or Sig Other entered my life.  But now I must go and console Sig Other and pet his head as he mourns the loss of his job well done.  

Monday, July 4, 2011

The 167th Post in which Child One turns 18.

Saturday night was Child One’s 18th birthday party.  She wanted something smallish – she and her best friend celebrating together – about twenty people for a nice dinner.  She picked a theme – Indian – and she and her friends bought glamorous outfits.  I did their makeup and filled the house with incense and geraniums and richly colored Indian linens.  The henna tattoo artist arrived, the kids all put on their bindis and milled about to Sig Other’s rather raucous Bollywood soundtrack mix.  Sig Other and the other parents and I hovered as long as we could – soaking up as much gorgeous, hilarious, hormonally charged teenage time as possible before making what we had promised would be a brief exit.  Child One had never really invited us, you see.  “You can stay” is what she said when asked if were to be part of the festivities.  Not exactly a cozy invitation.  And we were never included on the Facebook Event Page, which apparently has replaced paper or even email as the Emily Post of social event planning.  So we made our own dinner plans – adult dinner plans – and knew that we’d be nearby and gone very briefly.

Child One and company were having a perfectly lovely time when we left.   The table was piled with food and Diet Pepsi and laughter.  An hour and a half later we returned to empty bottles of rock-gut vodka and beer strewn around the house.  An anonymous Italian girl showed up in a cab with three leggy friends and proceeded to vomit in our bathroom while an eager teen boy waited nearby desperate to take advantage of her and another boy took her pulse, spinning his own fantasy of an emergency room drop-off.  Couples made out in dark corners, others just sat around talking about their future – one was leaving the next day for Europe and then college, they’d said goodbye already to another the day before.  The night was warm and smelled of spilled beer and cigarettes, smoke from a hookah (which had magically appeared in our absence) hung heavy over conversation about anticipation, fear and excitement of change.   Some were drinking.  Some were not.  And as I walked the party with my basket they were brutally honest about who had done what and how much.  It’s a pretty mild crew (notwithstanding the anonymous Italian girl) and I was impressed by how forthcoming and easy they were about handing over their keys. 

And yes, I took their keys.  I am the evil shrew collecting keys of potentially drunk teenagers and hiding them in a basket underneath my bathroom sink.  I told them I would breathalyze them on their way out.  I lied, of course.  I don’t have a Breathalyzer.  But fear still drives the teenage brain and so keys were collected and slowly doled out (or not) as the night went on. Most slept on couches or blow up mattresses or corners of the floor strewn with blankets.  One was up before us, waiting at the counter when we rose for a cup of coffee and to share his particular account of the events of the evening.  The rest made do with juice and toast and whatever was in the house as Sig Other and I fled quickly to avoid the flutter of inevitably hung over and sleep deprived teens.  By the time we returned most were gone and Child One had the good sense to clean up empty bottles and whatever detritus remained from the night before. 

But I was left wondering about how Sig Other and I deal with the issue of underage drinking vs. the way other parents do or vs. my own childhood.  In my teenage years, we would never have partied in a house with adults present.  We’d wait for any parent to leave town and invade like marauding booze bandits.  We thought nothing of raiding the liquor cabinet once we’d run out of whatever screw top wine or malt liquor we could buy with fake IDs flimsy as tissue paper.  And then we’d get in our cars – drunk as skunks and risk the drive rather than risk the wrath of a parent who knew the truth.   This was in the early 80s.  Meatballs was one of my favorite movies. There was one song – the theme song of the movie – that went like this: “We are the CITs so pity us, the kids are brats the food is hideous.  We’re gonna smoke and drink and fool around (we’re nookie bound), we’re Northstar CITs!.”  For some reason this song popped into my head as I thought about Child One’s 18th Bollywood Birthday Blowout.  There we were, at home with Child One and friends – and there they were smoking and drinking and fooling around.  And if they weren’t’ smoking and drinking and fooling around at our house, they’d be smoking and drinking and fooling around elsewhere.  So better here, in the relative safety of our home, I suppose, than out in the world and on the streets.