Sunday, February 15, 2015

Volume XI, issue i, January 2015

Sixteen Candles
Birthday breakfast burritos at the "taco bus."


The birthday present I opened on January 17, 1999 (or did the birthday present open me?) was not only the best birthday present I had ever received, but he was the gift that kept on giving. Since that birthday 16 years ago, I've been able to celebrate my big day each year by making it someone else's big day.

When Holden was about eight, he approached me with a wave of shame moving across his face at the sudden realization that I had been throwing him an elaborate party on my birthday every year. He gulped back the guilt as he told me, "Mom, I feel bad. I don't want you to have to throw a party on your birthday!" (You should have heard Eric snort.)

Little did he realize that he had been giving his party-planning-addict-of-a-mother an annual present without ever having to do anything besides being born.

This year, I started planning Holden's Sweet Sixteen bash months in advance. During moments of brain-quiet, I would imagine scenes from the party that involved teen girls and teen boys who had come of their "Mormon Age," giggling merrily and basking in their sixteen-ness. I had plans for sparklingly interactive games dancing through my head along with an erudite guest list and an embarrassingly complicated yet adolescent-friendly menu.

Then I finally decided to ask Holden if he wanted a "boy girl party." Oops.  This introvert-to-the core should have realized she had trained her birthday twin to be an introvert-to-the-core. We exchanged alternative ideas for a few days, and I told him to choose the kind of party that he would really enjoy.

About a week before our birthday, we were discussing different options for his party, and without expecting him to really be interested, I casually added to the list, "Or the two of us could just go out together?"

My normally serene teen immediately lit up and said, "Really? That would be fun!" in the same way that I had expected him to react when I originally suggested the idea of having a boy girl party. I was stunned.

The perpetual sixteen-year-old that lives in my brain couldn't believe it. I had to grab her by the permed hair and threaten her to calm down or she wouldn't get to go on the date at all. Without a trace of hyperbole, I can say (and Eric will back me up on this) that I reached an entirely new level of GIDDY.

I have not spent more than an hour to get myself gussied, prepped, and ready for any event of any kind since the day of my wedding on March 28th, 1999 (which, if you're shrewd, you've already figured out was approximately 10 months before Holden was born). But on January 17th, 2015, I actually ironed something to wear and curled my hair and put on makeup. I didn't want my first-born son to go on his first-date with some slob!

As Holden waited patiently for his date to finish curling her hair (which I discovered is not like riding a bike at all! [The girls don't even use bikes any more. . . they use FLAT-irons to curl their hair! Did you know that?]), he made poses like this one in the living room:

Forty-five minutes later (clears throat self-consciously), I went out the mud-room door and re-surfaced in front of the front door and rang the doorbell. I couldn't stop smiling alone in the dark as I waited for him to answer the door. I was more excited than I ever was for one of those girls-choice nightmares in high school. Holden was so cute when he saw me produce a Snickers Bouquet from behind my back that I couldn't stop grinning like I was the Mom Prom Queen for the evening.


As Eric attempted to take a few snapshots of us, he kept saying, "Stop smiling like that! Can you please tone it down just a little?" I just flashed every single one of my teeth at him and said, "I can't!"

My sweet boy and I went to dinner at a local barbeque joint and just talked and laughed like old friends. At one point, Holden offered me a charming smile and said, "I just love spending time with my favorite woman in the world!" He then paused with perfect timing and continued, "But since she's not available, you'll have to do."

As the oldest of seven, our poor Holden has rarely eaten at a restaurant, so he was completely overwhelmed by all of the choices on the menu. He struggled to narrow down his options until I educated him about one of the best perks of dating--sharing your food. I told him to choose two main courses so we could share.

Perhaps my aging heart wouldn't normally have tolerated both the chicken fried steak and the brisket, but it felt so young that night that I think the fat just sailed right through my arteries!

It only took about twelve tries for the two of us to get our arched eyebrows in sync with each other, but we were quite pleased with our selfie shot. When we showed Peter this "cynical eyebrow" (as Holden calls it) face later, he said seriously, "It's handsome. . . but sarcastic"

Among other topics, Holden and I discussed dating, French grammar, The Great Gatsby, European History, and the meaning of the scriptural phrase "grace for grace." I had to turn away from him so he wouldn't see my tears after he voluntarily shared the verse that had been on his mind lately from D&C 93: "And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness." Holden told me how he loved how even though the Savior was perfect, he still had to learn from the scriptures in order to become fully developed. 

For his birthday, this cooky kid asked for books about writing and cheesecake. . . 

(Let me just pause and say, "Seriously??? Where did this kid come from?")

The week after his birthday, Holden was ordained to be a Priest. As he loosened his tie when he got home, he said reflectively, "Now I'm available AND righteous!"

* * *

As happens so often these days, I wished I could somehow travel back to that disheartened 16-year-old that I used to be (or to the single 26-year-old in graduate school or the rash-ridden, vomiting pregnant woman, or the miscarrying mother). I would tell her to savor those teenage tugs at her heartstrings and not to become swallowed up in comparisons or suffering or sacrifice. I'd describe the delicious details from idyllic scenes in her future, scenes that would only surface after years of waiting on the Lord--scenes so absolutely full of an organic happiness that would have been utterly unimaginable on some of those lonely days of self-pity and awkwardness. 

But she wouldn't have believed me. Thankfully, it all had to be lived. 

World Meets Girl


Our Eve has never suffered from an ounce of self-consciousness (perhaps because I am neurotic enough for both of us). This year she's been choosing her outfit every day, which are just slightly more understated than the frilly works of clothing-art that I would assemble for her during her elementary school days. 

One cold day this month, she came upstairs after getting ready for school with a fun striped cardigan and a t-shirt. I looked at her outfit and said enthusiastically, Eve! That looks cute!"

My girl just shrugged and said, "That wasn't its purpose. . . but thanks."