Friday, 9 April 2010
Happy Birthday (not so sweet) Sixteen
On April 2nd 1994 I was 19 years old, holding a brand new baby aloft in my arms. She smelled like Johnsons talc and had caramel coloured skin with a soft, dark, downy covering. She didn't cry, she just cooed. Like a little pidgeon. "Coo Coo".
The early hours of April 2nd 2010- I am at a downtown New York club in a pit of sweat, fist pumping 2 feet away from Calvin Harris. And I have lost my baby.
Panic begins to rise from my stomach but then she reappears in the crowd, smiling, beautiful, clad in tight black lycra dress, skin glistening from sweat and holding a $15 vodka tonic in the air. She mouths something to me. I don't understand. She waves her hand and shakes her head and smiles-our universal language for "...it doesn't matter." She closes her eyes, stretches her arms into the air and says ''Woo Woo."
Thank god. She is safe. And I am too old to be in a sweat pit, but more importantly I am too old to be in a sweat pit alone. She dances up to me, pushing her way through the crowd, eyes alive, sparkling, wide with wonderment at Calvin.
"I can't receive it's a ghost!" she bellows in my ear
"I CAN'T BELIEVE HE'S SO CLOSE."
"OH RIGHT! YEAH. I KNOW!"
"THANK YOU! THIS IS AMAZING!"
"THAT'S OK HONEY!
The next morning I wake up at 7a.m. with my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth and my bladder fit to burst. No false dawn today, the hangover just kicks straight in. I wait a few hours and then Mum and I burst into The Teenager's room playing Neil Sedaka's 'Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen' on the stereo. We sing loudly and Mum does this crazy kooky dance. The Teen pulls the duvet back, opens one eye and grimaces:
"What the fuck?"
The next few days whizz by like a fast forwarded film... We have the customary Smith birthday family argument which kicks in before midday. Then I am on 7th Avenue with a giant sweet sixteen balloon and a bag filled with garish pink banners and balloons. Next, I send The American off in seach of ready to roll icing, which you can't buy anywhere. I make 16 pink roses to put on top of the Victoria Sponge I baked.
That night we go to Employees Only in the Village and drink cocktails and have Oysters. The American puts away a few double Jacks, which somehow make him funnier than me. J.D. becomes known as 'Thunder Stealing Elixir'.
When we leave I suggest The Teenager gets her fortune told by the woman that sits in the window of the restaurant. We give her 20 bucks and she gives the birthday girl some food for thought; be patient, don't be so hard on yourself, breathe, embrace womanhood.
We spill out onto the street and the American has found an abandoned locked vintage chest which he brings home in the cab and insists on powerdrilling open. At 1 a.m. Our neighbours probably hate us, but in New York no one complains about noise. I go to bed and leave Mum and The Teenager laughing at him climbing in and attempting to shut it, like some Whiskey sodden Houdini.
Just a few hours later and my alarm clock jerks me awake like a lumphammer on my sore brain. It's 5.30 a.m and time to put my Mother in a car to Newark Airport. She seems fine despite the wine she put away and she's still sanctimoniously claiming she ''doesn't do hangovers'. Neither does The Teenager and I wonder if she and a pensioner are fine-how many decades I am going to suffer the black dog after a drinking session?
That night I am half dead and nigh on suicidal thorough lack of sleep and booze consumption, but I have to make it out to the Easter burlesque show we have tickets for. 'The Burning Bush versus The Second Coming' gives us five pairs of tits, two willies and several hours of open mouthed astonishment and horror from The Teenager.
I want to warn her not to leave her mouth open for too long in a place like this.
On the cab home I ask if if her if she enjoyed the last few days. She pauses, wrinkles her lips a little.
"I just... miss my Boy. And my mates you know?"
"I know honey. I know. Hanging out with your Mum isn't the way you would have chosen to spend your sixteenth birthday."
"I had a great time though. Thank you."
"You're welcome sweetheart."
Is it my imagination or is she that much older now? I look at her and it seems that way. A lamb, unsteady on her feet, finding her legs but getting ready to run. Time to let go of my baby and get to know her all over again as an adult.
I look out of the cab window as we whizz down 6th Avenue. We stop in traffic outside St Joseph's church. The white romanesque pillars are lit up and people gather on the steps for the start of midnight mass. I can see inside, candlelight beats invitingly. I want to go in, not for God, but for something.
Easter tomorrow. Spring.
New beginnings and rebirth.