The 21st birthday is a right of passage for a young man or woman. At 18 they are considered, for all intents and purposes, an adult. They can enlist in the military and sign legally binding documents. But the 21st birthday comes for many people with a night of binge drinking just because at 21 they can legally buy alcohol. My night was a bit quieter but no less memorable.
Day 29 – The night of my 21st birthday
On December 2, 1997, I turned 21. I chose to spend that night with my mom and my aunt. In my family it is tradition that the parents buy their children their first legal alcoholic beverage.
My mother and aunt took me to their favorite Mexican restaurant. We sat there for a couple of eating chips and salsa and drinking margaritas. That night was my first encounter with tequila, and I liked it very much. In the years since that night I have spent many an evening with my friend, Jose Cuervo. We laughed and giggled and behaved like girlfriends.
My mom gave me a gift that night that I still treasure. She had spent months putting it together and working to keep it a secret. Keeping anything a secret in my family is no mean feat, and everyone knew about the gift that she was putting together because she had to enlist help from everyone. Everyone gladly and eagerly pitched in. My mom toiled for months to put together a scrapbook of my first 21 years of life. It is a beautiful book.
She started it with pictures of her and my father as children and teenagers, pictures from when they dated, graduated from high school, got married, my dad in basic training for the Air Force, and their move to Myrtle Beach (back when Myrtle Beach had an Air Force base). There were pictures of my mom as she was pregnant with me, and then there were pictures of my mom holding this tiny, dark-haired baby. There were pictures of me in a bouncy seat while my mom fed me with our pet cats watching her. There were pictures of me in front of the Christmas tree, and playing with our dog. There is an adorable picture of my dad bent way over, leaning down to kiss his tiny daughter with her face tilted up to meet him. (A few years ago I attempted to recreate that picture with my son. I collaged it with the picture of my dad and I, and sent it to my dad.)
Then there are the pictures of my mom and I in St. Louis, where she was from. She divorced my dad when I was two and she moved back home, taking me with her. There were pictures from my grandparents house, pictures at day care, early school pictures, pictures of my mom’s second marriage to my sister’s dad. There were pictures of me with various family members, doing various activities, and just steadily growing older. Pictures from my years in band. Pictures from high school in homecoming dresses, and Valentine’s day dance dresses. There were pictures of my first car, my 1986 Toyota Pickup truck. All throughout this scrapbook there are notes, passages, descriptions . . . reminders of moments throughout my history.
My mom worked for months to put this book together not just for me, but for herself, as well. For her it was a trip down memory lane, and a way to let go of some hurts that she had been hanging onto. She poured her history, my dad’s history, and my history onto those pages. When I hold that scrapbook I hold my heart. When I flip through its pages I see my parent’s love for me. When I read it’s memory-filled passages I hear my mom’s voice telling me our story.
So, how did I spend my 21st birthday? I didn’t spend it getting crazy, stupid drunk simply because I could. I spent it celebrating the years that got me to that night with a personal history book put together with love by my mom.
Until next time . . .