Sweet 16

My oldest daughter, my first baby turned sixteen on March 25th.  I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate – dinner with friends?  An overnight in San Francisco?

She decided that she wanted me to take her to Japantown for lunch and shopping.  Just the two of us, plus my youngest.  I offered to bring friends, to make it more of a festive thing, but she wanted to just hang with me and her sister, and you guys, I swear I am sort of a slacker parent, but that made me feel like I’ve done something right, if my kid wants to spend time with me and her sister on her 16th birthday.

Anyway, we had a great time shopping for anime themed clothing and key chains and eating mochi on sticks and okonomiyaki and drinking boba tea with cotton candy on top and taking all the time in the world to browse every single store.  Granted, this was on the Saturday before her actual birthday, because MOTHER OF THE YEAR ALERT I booked her orthodontic adjustment for her birthday afternoon.  She wanted bulgogi for dinner that night, so we grilled it up and savored it before the next MOTHER OF THE YEAR ALERT morning when I drove her to get her four wisdom teeth removed.

Happy 16th Birthday!  You’re up a year, down four teeth, and bruised like a prize fighter!

We spent the next few days keeping up with a rigorous schedule of pain meds and antibiotics that required like eight alarms on my phone, and resulted in me stumbling around at 3 am, smashing pills into spoons of jelly or greek yogurt so she could swallow them without opening her mouth very wide, while half asleep.  It was just like when she was a baby, but with more ice packs, and the whining involved actual words!

These last few years have been a blur in so many ways.  My mom warned me, of course, that the high school years would fly by.  My kid is half way through high school, nowhere close to even getting her driver’s license, talking about getting a job this summer, and basically freaking me out with how she’s rounding the corner towards independence and adulthood.  She’s thinking about college, dreaming about her own place someday (with a full complement of her friends, of course) and really starting to embrace the opportunities ahead.

With every passing year, I find myself saying “This is my favorite age!” and it’s true.

 

Tripping over the past

When my mother-in-law passed away in 2012, I spent the first days after emptying drawers, tossing out expired bingo cards and forgotten lotions and gathering together a lifetime of memorabilia, with the intent to scan all the photos and newspaper clippings, digitize the dozens of boxes of slides, and in general, preserve these things so they could be easily shared with other members of the family. I brought home a massive box with us, and it has lived on the floor of my closet for the last several years.  I did take the step of buying a slide and negative converter a few years ago, but that’s as far as I got.

This last week or two, I was looking through my old photo albums, trying to find the one that holds the photos of my kids on their second trip to Disneyland, so I can show my niece and nephew before my parents take them to Disneyland in a few weeks.  I think I switched to a digital camera right before that trip – some photos are on Flickr, but others that I remember are not.  Did I ever print them?  Who knows.  Also – HA! Look!  I used to dress them cute and do their hair!

Anyway, all this strolling through memory lane brought to mind the giant box in my closet that needed to be dealt with.  I slid it out of its place into the middle of the floor, and then every single member of the family managed to ram a limb into it, stub a toe or bruise a shin. There was a general cursing of the box, until I opened it.  Photo albums full of my husband’s childhood had my kids riveted. They had seen a lot of these albums before – my husband’s face a mirror of my two daughters, same expressions, same attitude, rendered in black and white snapshots during his childhood in Korea, and then in the faded, rusty tones of 1970s film.  The slides were new to us, though, and as I started to scan them, the first years after my husband arrived in the USA came to life for the first time.  I scanned a bunch of the slides and called them up on the screen.  This was the first one:

Look How Cool

 

That’s my husband, about 5 years old I think, leaning hip cocked and legs crossed, smirking at the camera.  “Look how cool I was!” said my husband when I showed him the photo.  There’s that first-born confidence, I thought.

Seeing these old photos has brought a new side of my husband’s history to life for me.  I’m pretty familiar with my husband’s teenager story, but somehow, seeing these photos of family trips to the snow, the lake, holidays with the grandparents and playing with neighbors in the yard…I can hear his young voice, and feel the warm sun on his skin after a long day of playing.  I can see the echo in the memories of my own children, who are also past those years of swing sets and skinned knees and throwing rocks at the water just to hear the splash.

I also realized recently that I haven’t taken a decent picture with a real camera in almost half a year. My phone is filled with half-assed candids of the kids, and some selfies, but I haven’t been taking the same pains to document our lives that I used to.  Some of that is inevitable, our lives have been straight up boring, with weekends lost to homework and housework and all of our family outings revolving around shopping or eating out. It doesn’t feel like a worthy thing to document.

Mid-year resolution: Once a month family outing to somewhere other than Costco or Five Guys. Somewhere worthy of the Big Camera.