My son Jason was kind of ambivalent about his eleventh birthday. He delayed in deciding whether or not he wanted a party—understandable, as he started a new school this year, and he is still making friends.
He decided to go ahead with it, but too late for us to organize anything, so we owe him a party with friends.
For his birthday this week, Lucy and I agree to treat him to a family dinner party. I offer to cook something special, but she suggests we keep it simple. It’s a school night, and I have an early morning flight. We opt for pizza, presents and cupcakes at my place.
I pick up the kids from school. Jason is all smiles when I see him. He is with a friend. I say, “Happy Birthday!” in that way Frosty the Snowman says it when he comes to life. Jason rolls his eyes to his friend. “See? I told you,” he says.
Lucy joins us later, bringing along the cupcakes. Jason opens presents, sweetly allowing his younger brother and sister to tear open the wrapping paper. Then we have pizza, Lucy and I sitting together, having wine. She and I talk about the night he was born. We do this in part to embarrass him good naturedly, as parents do, but also to share that memory.
I notice that Jason is staring off, not eating. I ask what he is thinking about. Nothing, he says. I elbow Lucy, who also notices his mood.
He declines a cupcake. He sits on the couch. We nudge him, goof with him, try to get him to talk. He smiles wanly when we joke, but he looks depressed. It just came over him.
Lucy talks about how holidays and birthdays can be like that: you have a lot of expectations and excitement, and even when it’s good, you can feel a little let down. I think that may be it. Or seeing his parents together. Or not having a party with his friends. Or not getting the iPod he wants. Or . . . adolescence.
His siblings and I dance for a while, but then it is time for them to go. The younger kids are sad that I am leaving town, and we talk about how it will be a short trip, and I will see them soon.
After they leave, I do dishes and think about packing. The apartment is a mess, as I haven’t had time to clean up from the holiday weekend. As I need to head to the airport at about 3:30am, my plan is to skip sleep in favor of working, cleaning, and drinking. But first, I need to get some cash from the ATM.
I walk to the bank, and discover that my ATM card has just expired. I have $11 in my wallet. I call the bank, and learn that the only thing to do is to get a replacement card in the morning. That’s fine, but I need to get to the airport before banking hours.
My plan had been to take a cab, which would cost about $50. The alternative would be to take the subway and the connecting train, but I wasn’t sure how reliable that would be in the middle of the night.
Alas, I had no choice. I would leave earlier, and take the subway. I would have to search for coins in order to afford that.
Back home, I pack, do some tidying, pour some bourbon. I sign online, and up pops an instant message from Bridget, still glowing from last night. I thank her for the fun and all the goodies. I commiserate about my misfortune with the ATM.
“What? You have no cash! You can’t travel without cash!”
“Oh, I’ll be fine,” I say. “I’m meeting friends when I arrive, and my bank has a branch near my hotel—I can straighten this out tomorrow.”
“You are NOT taking the subway to the airport in the middle of the night,” she says. “I am bringing you money right now.”
“No no,” I say. “It’s fine, it’s no big deal.” Bridget lives in New Jersey. It’s already past midnight. She has to work in the morning.
“You can’t stop me. I am bringing you $200. I won’t miss it. You need it.”
I couldn’t stop her. She brought me $200. I gave her a good fucking in gratitude.
She woke me up at 3:30. She offered to drive me to the airport, which was insane, as it was far out of her way.
I kissed her goodbye, and flagged a cab. I paid for it with her money.
I won’t bother trying to repay her.