Posted by: zhak39 | January 2, 2009


What is sixteen? What is a boy, young man? Who is this kid and why is he walking the plank of my ship?

Chris celebrated his sixteenth birthday last week. He woke earlier than the others as he tends to do. He hit the shower, straightened his hair then found me at the computer. I didn’t do the usual “sixteen years ago this very minute the sunlight reflected off slick ice and made sparkles through the window of our birthing room….” He’d only show me the underside of his eyes and at the moment he was eying the keyboard. How long would I be on the computer? He had to check his myspace.

“Happy Birthday, darling boy,” I said relinquishing my seat. “What kind of cake would you like?”

“Don’t want a cake. Gotta check…, you know?” he said.

Yes, I know. He’s always been ahead of his friends, at least when it comes to rising. He’d have to wait awhile before someone with a car dragged out of bed.

“Can I open my presents now?” he asked.

That wasn’t going to happen.

He had time to field a couple of phone calls from out of town family before he and Helen were picked up. Now he was eying my wallet. I gave him $50 and a kiss. Happy Birthday baby.

I did make a heart-shaped cake, red velvet, wonderful recipe that gets lightness and texture from buttermilk and by stirring a tablespoon of vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda into the batter and of course a scandalous cream cheese based frosting. Sam and I sang Happy Birthday and dug into the cake that evening. I heard Chris come in around nine but didn’t get out of bed where I was letting some ibuprofen take the throb out of an infected wisdom tooth (not helped by the cream cheese frosting).

Next morning I was again at computer, checking my e-mail before the kids got up. I figured on having a couple of hours when Chris came in the room, bedraggled, pale, dark circles under his eyes.

“Mom, I don’t feel very good.”

“Honey, you don’t look very good.”

I got up to feel his forehead.

He pulled back.

“It’s not that. I feel really bad. I didn’t spend any time with you on my birthday. I didn’t know you had a toothache. I thought you’d be up when I got home. I feel…guilty.”

He reached over to me and put $30 dollars in my hand.

“I’m sorry.”

I looked into his eyes, his sad face. Standing I had to reach up to give him a hug and he hugged me back.

“Chris, don’t you know what I gave you yesterday for your birthday?”

He looked at the money he had handed me.

“I gave you freedom,” I said.

The best kind of smile is a slow one, the kind that spreads with realization, understanding.

“And I’m going to keep the change, thank you,” I said.


  1. I really liked this entry ^_^*

    It made me think of me and my mom when I was around that age…thank you 🙂 ((she would always keep the change too lol))

  2. Your mom sounds like a very smart lady.

    It’s an interesting age. When Chris was really little, 3 or 4, he would sometimes want something that just wasn’t good for him. I would come between him and what he wanted and he would get really mad and upset. Of course, when he was upset, he would look for mom to comfort him. Then he would remember that he was upset because of mom. He would stand there, just totally confused, not knowing what to do.

    Now he swings from being the most charming, animated guy to some brackish mulish creature. I become the one standing there, just totally confused, not knowing what to do.

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