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Suburban Island

Boston and Eighteenth Birthdays
Sunday, Jul. 18, 2004, 12:03 p.m.

QUESTION: Do you want a hot dog?

WHAT I LEARNED: Put your phone charger in your carry on case.

I’m back home from Boston now but tomorrow I am flying off to Chicago. In between Boston and Chicago trips we celebrated my daughter’s 18th birthday, which occurred this past Thursday. Oh to be 18 and to enjoy the delicious sense of freedom and perception of maturity that comes with that birthday. The idea – that at least in concept – you can throw curfews and parental rules of the house to the wind is intoxicating. However, it’s not realistic. If you are 18 and living in your own apartment and paying for all your own stuff then I guess you can do as you please, but when you are still living at home and your parents and paying your way – well, wake up and smell the coffee.

The truth is that I do think now that my daughter is 18 that she is entitled to more freedom of action in theory (something she has actually had more of than she realizes) but I still need her action to be tempered with an abiding understanding that it’s not nice to drive mom and dad crazy with worry or fret them to death with minor annoyances just because you have come of age. For instance, my daughter has focused on her curfew as she approached and crossed the 18-year old mark. She has the idea that being 18 means – in theory at least – that she is curfew-less. I don’t think so. I think you can say you don’t have a curfew but you better not show up at 3:00 AM or forget to call home at midnight to let your parents know you are safe and sound. I need my sleep you know.

I had to go to a conference in Boston and brought my daughter. It was a birthday present of sorts and it was a lot of fun for both of us to be able to take the trip together. In between all my work/conference responsibilities we were still able to enjoy Boston. We did this by visiting the trendy shops on Newberry Street, enjoying some great meals, marveling at the Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks face-off, taking a fascinating ghost walk, riding in an amphibious vehicle on the popular land-and-sea Duck Tour, glimpsing the antique violet glass in the windows of the historic homes, peeking into the Cheers bar, visiting Harvard Square in the rain and eating in a diner there that served 7-layer cakes to die for, spying the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden as we tromped through the park, riding the “T” which is Boston’s mass transit system, exploring Faneuil Hall, and listening to some live jazz at the top of the Prudential Building. We were tired and our feet hurt, but we enjoyed Boston.


In other years, I have taken my daughter to these summer conferences and if her birthday was in the midst of it we just celebrated her birthday right then and there and the family and friends celebrations occurred after the fact back home when we returned from the trip. Last year for instance, we were in Seattle. We celebrated her birthday by enjoying a salmon bake and show at Tillicum Village on Blake Island State Park and a visit to the Seattle Space Needle revolving restaurant. This year was different because we were able to leave the night before her birthday so she could be home to celebrate with friends and her boyfriend. And it was different because that was what she wanted to do – get home instead of spending an extra day in Boston after the conference with mom. My little girl has grown up. Gone are the days when a birthday spent with mom was the apex of the birthday experience continuum.

All was well however, as I had us booked for a flight that would get us back home the evening before her birthday. Trauma and tears occurred when our flight was delayed by storms at home. We sat in the Airtran lounge for about 7 hours with nothing but a hot dog stand, a newspaper and magazine shop, and a public access Internet terminal ($1 for 4 minutes) to keep us amused. Things were made worse by the fact that I had packed my computer cord and she had packed her phone charger. Dead phones, a later and later arrival time equating to no possibility of seeing her boyfriend that evening upon return, and only hot dogs, hot dogs, and sausage sandwiches to eat – the grease and pickle relish smell blanketing every inch of the waiting room, was more than anybody, especially a soon-to-be 18-year old could bear.

After threats of cancelled flights were skirted and my daughter was able to get the airline to pull her baggage so she could retrieve her charger, things settled down. We did get on a plane and arrive back home around 2 AM. By the time we got our luggage and made the long drive home is was 3:30 in the morning. My head hit the pillow by 4:00.

I had to drag myself to work the next day but my daughter had something bigger going on than a busy workday– she had her eighteenth birthday. She had arrived in time to be home – even if asleep – for her birthday. In the end it seemed, all the mothers in her life had cooperated to get her home for the big day – Mom and Mother Nature.

Happy Eighteenth Birthday, honey!

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