Nicole looked down at her shoes as she stepped out of the car. All four Pattersons had arrived at their destination to celebrate Bruce's 18th birthday. That date just also happened to be their twenty first wedding anniversary and Adriana's 16th birthday. They had booked the largest room at the Italian restaurant downtown: Vittorio's. The decor was reminiscent of Old Italian architecture with grapevines, leaves and actual grapes hanging through the archways. Each table had a bottle of Chianti and a vase filled with fresh flowers. Vittorio's was best known for their extraordinary menu. The chefs came from Italy and the dishes were divine.
The party consisted of 20 of Bruce's closest friends, Nicole's parents and Adriana's boyfriend. Bruce sat at the head of the table and Adriana sat at the other end, seated to the left of Greg, her boyfriend of nearly a year. Nicole and Nick on her right.
Nicole looked to the end of the table to see her handsome son smiling and laughing with his friends. He had been a popular person in his class and narrowing the list down to just twenty was difficult. She scanned each classmate and remembered them as children growing up with her children. Now they were all headed off to college. Where had the time gone?
She reached over and squeezed Adriana’s hand who immediately asked, “What was that for?”
“Just because,” Nicole answered. She remembered the day she brought her pink bundle of joy home, the day she started school, screaming that she didn’t want to go and so many more milestones along the way. That very morning she had taken Adriana to get her drivers’ license. In Nicole’s mind that meant the end of childhood and beginning of adulthood.
Tears began to form in the corner of her eyes. Nick asked her what was wrong and she just shrugged. He put his arm around her and whispered in her ear, “I know you better than that, now tell me what’s going on.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder and sadly said, “My babies are all grown up.”
Nick squeezed her affectionately and said, “Just because they’re grown up doesn’t mean they don’t need you. Think about how often you still lean on your own parents. Also, you have all the memories of their childhood and no one can take that away from you.”
She smiled and said, “Yeah like this lovely shoe on my right foot.”
“Exactly,” He returned. “No one will ever be able to make your foot whole again and you can give all the credit to our grown up son.”
She laughed, “I think I would’ve like different reminders, but this will have to do. I am sure he will remember it every time he put the car in reverse to make sure there is not someone standing close enough to get their foot run over.”
“Oh I’m sure he learned his lesson. And I get to thank him for that because you cannot wear high heels anymore so you fit perfectly under my arm.”
“Always the silver lining for you.”
Nick said, “Life is really too short to get stuck in the muck. If you can’t find something good in every situation, you might as well live in a cave.”
Nicole laughed, “Well at least if I lived in a cage I wouldn’t have a bum foot.”
The waitress started bringing out the food, large plates of appetizers including calamari, mozzarella, fresh bread and olive oil, stuffed mushrooms and fried ravioli. The noise level at the table dimmed immediately. Nick took that opportunity to stand up and make a speech.
“Thank you all for coming tonight to share in the momentous occasion of Bruce’s eighteenth birthday and his acceptance into Duke. Today also happens to be our twenty first wedding anniversary. Not only are we proud of our children, we are proud to be their parents. Both Bruce and his sister have brought us many years of joy, memories and ‘ah hah’ moments.”
The room chuckled as he continued. “As Bruce starts off on his journey to adulthood it is my hope that he is always surrounded by people he loves and good friends like you.”
Bruce got up from his seat and came over to Nick and gave him a hug. He then wrapped his arms around Nicole and whispered in her ear, “You are the greatest mom in the world.”
After all the food was devoured and the talking grew louder, Bruce suggested they continue the party back at the house. He shot a querying look towards his parents, who both agreed, and then said, “I also want to thank all of you for coming. This has been a glorious night but I have to admit I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for my parents. They are the greatest role models to strive to be. Now let’s keep this going and don’t forget to get your swim trunks. It’s time for water!”