Two Sweet Sixteens

By Anita Garner

In our three-person Northern California quarantine family the 2020 birthday cycle completes this month. Caedan Ray, our November girl, celebrates Sweet Sixteen in a few days.

It’s a milestone I don’t take for granted.  My daughter, Cathleen,  waited a long time for this girl.  I think we were both convinced there wouldn’t be grandchildren in this family so when Caedan arrived in 2004 she felt like a miracle.

Sixteen brings in the real world to wrap up parts of childhood, or at least that’s how it works in a non-pandemic year.  Sixteen is old enough for a work permit.  Caedan hopes her volunteering at the local library might turn into a part-time job when things re-open.  Driving is another big step. A learner’s permit comes next.

Cathleen notes big occasions on the calendar.

Her mother’s  Sweet Sixteen was in a restaurant in a hotel.  We booked a small private room inside “John Q’s” at the top of the Holiday Inn across from Old Sacramento.  Guests dressed fancy and gathered for dinner at one big, noisy table.

The cake was a gift from the hotel pastry chef.  It was a perfect replica of a drum set.  Cath’s Dad was teaching her to play in those days. The party was posh but it wasn’t a chapter from the lifestyles of big-spending parents.  The hotel was a client of my advertising agency and they did us proud,  compliments of the owner, John Q Hammons.

Of course we embarrassed our daughter. It’s what parents do. We hired a birthday-gram, requesting a singer to deliver roses and sing “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen.”  The singer turned out to be so close in age to the birthday girl that as soon as he started singing the Neil Sedaka hit both of them went all shy and squirmy.  He blushed the color of the roses all the way through his song.

None of this sounds like anything that would interest Caedan Ray. I’m picturing her in a more casual outfit, which is her style, though if you sent her a birthday-gram sung by any of the young men from BTS she might agree to some lip gloss and her favorite dangly skeleton earrings.