When I moved to New York, I thought I was very, very grown-up. I didn't cry when my Mom left, and even though I had no idea what to do with myself, I pretended like I did. I faked it - and inevitable, I made it. I moved in late August, at the tender age of 17. Its not every day you turn 18 in a brand new adventure, so I decided to make the most of it.
On my Actual Birthday - at 1 AM, I was in a diner on the Upper East Side, with D-$, my roommate. She had been at a failed attempt at an American Idol audition (back when that was something you did) and had just come back. I had been writing my first ever college midterm papers (I wasted no time perfecting my procrastination) and we decided to get food (oh college).
ANYWAY - We get to the diner and look up on the tv, and what do I see? The name of my hometown, flashing on the TV. I convince the surly, Eastern European woman to turn up the volume and find out that the police had caught the two snipers who had been shooting in the DC area (remember that?) - so Happy Birthday to me.
We go home, sleep for three hours and then do whatever 18 year old spends her whole life dreaming of - stood outside of the Today show like a couple of tourist idiots and made a sign using notebook paper, a crayola marker and some chewed gum.
It totally worked, y'all. I spent the 6:05 AM minute of my 18th birthday getting a hug from the weather-guy-who-isn't-Al-Roker.
As if that wasn't the most amazing thing - a few hours later (after turning in aforementioned paper) my Mom, Big Cuz, and Aunt Bluh- Bluh rolled up/down from Maryland/Nantucket respectively.
Since I didn't have any friends yet, my family was sweet enough to come celebrate with me. My mom drove 4 hours to bring me my favorite food and quality time with my favorite older cousin. And my aunt came down from her island sanctuary to spend a crazy weekend in noisy, smell, dirty New York.
Not only did they come to visit, they also brought presents (as if their presence wasn't enough). For my birthday my Cousin Peter had invited me to come with him to see Aida at Lincoln Center. And I was desperately in need of the appropriate attire. My grandmother (in one of the best Birthday maneuvers of my grown up life) sent up five dresses and I got to pick two (Oh! The luxury!)
I ended up picking a funky black and brown patterned one with bell sleeves and a wide skirt (which is what I actually wore the night of the opera) and my very. first. Little Black Dress. It was simple, and flattering and didn't need to be dry cleaned. When I wore it, I felt like such.a.grown.up.
After my family left, I cried for the first and only time from true homesickness (rather than homesickness mixed with heartbreak, or school/job woes). To have a family that loved me enough to drive all this way and celebrate with me. How could I spend my life so far away from all that?
That was the last birthday I spent with my family until I turned 23 - when my Dad was in Chicago and took me out to delicious tapas. And since then, I haven't been lucky enough to have any family close by to help me celebrate. Luckily I have this amazing pile of friends to make me feel embarrassingly loved, but I miss my family sometimes too.
And - that little black dress? The one I kept, but didn't wear to the Opera? It still hangs in my closet. I wore it last Thursday to an event. And about a month before that to an important meeting. And maybe two weeks before that, out to dinner. It's gotten a little smaller - but it still reminds me of my family, goes through the wash like a champ and comes out making me feel just as grown up as it did 8 years ago.