On Zoe’s 16th birthday I didn’t throw her a huge party or buy her a car, but when she accidentally opened my birthday presents my parents sent me instead of opening her own, I just smiled warmly and ran with it.
This is a big deal because I don’t get too many birthday presents so when they come I savor them, sometimes happily making myself wait weeks to open them.
Yay, a funny solar powered frog that hangs in a tree and bounces!!
Yay, a gift card to Walgreens!!
After Zoe finished whatever else and was looking like teenage angst was about to grab her by the ankles I got us out of the house.
First we went far across town and walked up and down the aisle of a makeup store to get a present for a friend of hers.
I almost buy this super cool eyeshadow palette, then I almost buy the other once, and then I stand in line and almost buy the palette that the other ones were imitating but then I just don’t want to -- no, actually, I just physically can't -- spend that much money on eyeshadow when people are hungry and cold in this world so I walk out empty handed but happy.
We drive to a bookstore and Zoe buys another present for another friend and I decide to force myself to buy a book, a real tangible printed book. I almost buy this one, then the other, then barely can decide between two of them and finally pick one.
This whole thing makes Zoe laugh and after we pay we walk into the cold darkness laughing.
Where next? She shrugs. I shrug. She thinks we are going home but oh no, I have plans.
I take her to Walgreens.
We walk in and are greeted with WELCOME TO MOE’S just kidding, they copied Moe’s and shout WELCOME TO WALGREENS, which is equal parts awkward and familiar like most rituals.
Zoe asks what we are there for and I tell her to get whatever mascara she wants. Her eyes bug out a little. She puts one in my basket and I see it’s buy one get one 50% off. Get TWO. She shakes her head in disbelief. TWO? Yes, TWO, it’s going on the gift card! We giggle and walk slowly up the makeup aisle.
Sixteen years ago, you were just born and I couldn’t put you down! Everyone was gone and I wouldn’t let the nurses take you so I could sleep. I couldn’t put you down and I couldn’t stop staring at you and you weren’t sleepy so we just stayed up all night staring at each other.
Zoe nods. I tell her this story each year. It’s part of our thing. I continue.
You never cried. You just hung out looking at things and holding my finger so tightly. It was the longest night of my life. Yours too, probably.
Zoe nods and I ask if she needs nail polish. She hesitates. It’s your birthday! Get it!! She grabs the polish she’d been eying and throws it in.
Need a hairbrush? No.
Need Band-Aids? No.
Sanitary pads? MOM!
Leggings? Yes. We stock up on leggings, giddy as we dig though the colors and sizes. Pink? NO! Navy? Yes! Black? Get two!
We walk down the toy aisle, nothing.
The school supply aisle, nothing. Of course.
We skip the cleaning supplies and seasonal decor.
I am overtaken with an urge and announce, Follow me, I’m getting a Red Bull.
Zoe follows me then as I grab one from the Walgreens refrigerator, she suggests I should get the BIG one.
I do, and ask her what she’d like.
She picks an iced coffee and we stand in line to pay, feeling like birthday millionaires.
We get home and Zoe disappears into her phone and her world.
I fall into the series Cuba Libre on Netflix.
Zack walks out of his room, says hello, turns a corner and howls like someone has died.