So today our very own Millennium Baby came of age. As in, turned eighteen years old. As in, a grown-up, an adult, no longer a child. How very scary to think that now four of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren have “come
People don’t talk so much about coming of age anymore, it is one of those sayings labelled quaint and just a little old-fashioned. Me, I like
it - but then I like all such Rites of Passage by which we tell our Life’s Progress. So much so that Eleanor (for it is she who is the Birthday Girl) was treated to not one, but two, birthday banners this morning strung together by Yours Truly. One read
“Eleanor is 18”, the other proclaimed “Coming of Age”. I do like a banner that tells it as it is, and, after all (as you probably guessed I might say) why have one birthday banner when you could have two? The Eldest of the Darling Daughters
sends me photos so that I can see both banners in situ. They create a most celebratory atmosphere in the Family Room though I say so myself as shouldn’t.
several years past, Eleanor has been away on holiday in Distant Places when celebrating her birthday but wherever the family travelled I made sure her birthday banner was stowed away in her mother’s suitcase, to be brought out of hiding and displayed
on the morning of the big day. My creations were the Most Well Travelled of Birthday Banners.
This year, however, she is at home and enjoying a series of
birthday events, including a visit to the home of the Rampaging Rascals last week where her two aunts and five cousins treated her to a series of surprises. The most unexpected of these was, in fact, a surprise to everybody - a hot air balloon sailing in the
blue sky over the village of Hook with the words “Happy Birthday” emblazoned upon its side. Had she gathered her thoughts quickly enough, the Middle of the Darling Daughters could have claimed responsibility, so earning valuable Auntie-Related
Brownie Points with her niece.
Today, the Birthday Girl is in London with her family; other exciting plans are in place for tomorrow and Monday. Then on Thursday
it will be the turn of Mr B and me to host a birthday celebration. I am making plans already though I somehow can’t imagine I will be able to pull off a Happy Birthday hot air balloon...
Having a Millennium Baby in the family is extremely useful in that it’s easy to remember how old Eleanor is. She is, and always will be, the same age as the century. Which somehow makes her sound older than she is, but
you know what I mean.
There’s no more appropriate time than Eleanor’s Coming of Age to think back on shared memories of her childhood - though how
to choose from so many? Ellie appearing at our bedroom door, all ready for another day of fun and pronouncing “I’m wild awake”, every dark, unruly curl on her head dancing in chaotic abandon. Returning from a chilly visit to Brooklands Park
one Christmas, feeling absolutely full up with cold, but listening to my granddaughter in the back seat singing Christmas carols, seeing the sun setting over Worthing Pier as I drove towards it - and thinking life had never been sweeter. Eleanor at the table
in Shafiques, our restaurant of choice, poring over the dessert menu before announcing, predictably: “I think I’ll have an Egg Man!” Chasing the “ee-gulls” across the beach and laughing (but kindly) at me when, thanks to
the Usher gene, I became the only person ever known to cry during a film called Hotel for Dogs.
And then - more recently - Eleanor explaining the psychology
of sport to me to help me understand what makes a sportsman or woman a winner. Eleanor’s sweet voice singing Already Home with her sister Katie and cousins Jack and Hazel at our Golden Wedding. Eleanor telling me about her voluntary work in a care home
where she would sit and feed the residents who needed help and listen to the stories of their lives. We agree, most passionately, that every elderly person in hospital or nursing home should have a photograph of themselves as a young man or woman on their
bedside table as a reminder to others that they are still the same person who was once able to live life to the full and achieved much to be respected and admired. We agree about most things, my lovely Eleanor and I.
Dear Eleanor, standing there on the very brink of adulthood, you are special inside and out and your Grandad and I love you dearly, not just on your birthday but every day.
Happy birthday, darling girl! And many, many congratulations on your “Coming of Age.”