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My 16th Birthday
“I’m sorry Hannah, I shouldn’t have brought you out here tonight.” My mother said as her eyes began to fill with tears. It was a mid-August night in Avondale Arizona. It was a dry kind of heat out, where there’s no breeze just stagnant hot air that makes your clothes stick to you.
Feeling awkward that she was only addressing me, I replied, “It’s okay mom, I don’t mind.” And truthfully I didn’t; moments like these were and are to this day; characteristically us.
See this was the day of my sixteenth birthday; all my friends had been looking forward to their “sweet sixteen” all year and well mine didn’t quiet pan out like I thought it would. My mom had wanted to take all of her at home children out to dinner to celebrate the momentous occasion of her “baby” turning sixteen instead of all of us going in different places. She wanted us all to celebrate together with Ben not watching TV, Erika not at work, Jordan not doing her hair, and myself not reading in my room. So we all piled in my granddads old Cadillac and set off for a fine meal at the local Applebee’s.
Although the car made it to Applebee’s without difficulty, on the way back it over heated and shut off. We managed to get it in the parking lot of The Best Funeral Services. Not the greatest place to have a birthday party, although an up side was the fact that there weren’t any funerals in procession.
“Who could we call?” My older sister Erika addressed my mother.
“I don’t know.” My mother replied rather absent-mindedly.
“Isn’t this just great,” added Ben always sarcastic, “I wanted to watch that movie that was coming on FX tonight.”
Erika whom always acts practical and responsible, continued, “What about tisa and Jeff?”
“I don’t want to bother Tisa, she’s been so sick lately.” My mother reasoned.
They ran through a list of possible candidates whom could be persuaded to help us out. All the while, we sat in the stifling car. I was sandwiched between my brother Ben and my sister Jordan: feeling over heated and a little claustrophobic.
“It’s too hot in here, I need to get out of this car.” I was thinking while they continued on discussing possible strategies of getting us home.
“Could we maybe call Pastor Jay?” Erika was inquiring.
When at last the pioneering Jordan pushed her car door open and announced, “I’m getting out of this hot car and stretching my legs.” I followed her lead and abruptly swung out of the car. Sadly the air was no better outside the car as it was in it. Summer nights in Arizona are hardly ever below the mid nineties. The night smelt of Avondale, the damp scent of cornfields and fresh air. With sweat beads still forming on my head, I looked at the book in my hands entitled I Am the Messenger; my sister had bought me for my birthday.
“Well, I’ll catch up on some reading.” I thought as a settled down under a streetlight, flipping the book to page 1.
I was almost done with the first page when my mother shouted, “Don’t wonder off! Get back over by the car.”
I looked at the distance from me to the car and estimated it at probably three feet. With a sigh I got back up and sauntered over to the car.
“We called pastor Jay, he’ll be here soon. I don’t want you guys wondering off.” She informed me as if it was some secret agenda of mine to sneak off into the moonlit night. I turned to look at Jordan and we both rolled our eyes in synchronization. It wasn’t the fact that we were stranded that bothered us, it was the way she handled the situation that did.
“I wish we didn’t have to bother Jay, but I just don’t know what else to do.” My mom whined as we all sat around the outside of the Caddie. Jay lived a good forty-five minutes from where we were so we had a while to wait. “I shouldn’t have taken the car out tonight, it’s too late now of course, but I should have done better,” She continued with no need for encouragement from us, “I hate always having to depend on other people.”
“It’s okay mom, Jay will be here soon and we’ll go home.” I said.
“Yeah, I suppose so.” She nodded in agreement with a hint of discouragement on her face. “I just wanted you to have a good birthday, but instead were stuck here and I can’t fix it.”
“It’s not your fault mom, none of us knew that the car was going to over heat. It’s fine.” Erika told her.
“I’m going to miss the movie.” Ben informed us as though him catching some action flick on FX was what we were concerned with. My mom shot him an irritated glance.
“We’ll be lucky if we get home at all and all Ben’s concerned about is some freaking movie! “ She shouted at all of us.
“I just wanted to see the movie, I’m sorry.” Ben added as he walked away.
We sat in silence as mom sat in the car not talking as cars whizzed by. I thought it was odd that not a single car stopped to offer us assistance. Did they think we liked to spend our Thursday nights hanging out in the parking lot of funeral homes?
I began singing a song that I heard quite frequently over the summer while at El Nathan Christian Camp Grounds to fill the silence, “I will fear no evil, for my God is with me. And if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear? Whom then shall I fear? …” That being the only line of the song that I remembered, I sang it repetitively. Jordan picked up on the song and began singing what she could recall of it. We continued to the sing the song over and over again, remembering more of it every time around as we sat on the hot trunk of the car that slightly burned our legs. Our somewhat off key voices grew louder as we became more accustom to the song. After awhile we were laughing and clapping along with it, as well as throwing in some cheesy dance moves to make the song more entertaining. We got Erika singing along with us even though she didn’t know the words and Ben was laughing with us, but not attempting to learn the tune.
Eventually my mom came around the side of the car to see what was making us laugh so hard and smiled at the sight of us all playing around and having a good time.
“What are you guys doing?” She questioned with a puzzled expression.
“Singing!” We announced as though that was the most natural thing to do at a funeral home. She encouraged us to sing more songs to fill the long silences and we did. We were all laughing and I was actually enjoying myself. After the songs were over we started reminiscing of when we were younger and talking about funny trips we’d taken where everyone was always fighting and how anytime we tried to go to California our tire would pop.
We were telling jokes and singing more songs when Pastor Jay arrived to help fix our car. “You guys don’t look like you need rescuing.” He commented as he got some antifreeze out of his trunk.
“Maybe we don’t.” My mom said smiling.
We eventually got our car jumped off and made our way home, but I realized as we were driving that the car breaking down had actually done more to bring us together than an actual celebration would have. It started off rough and we fought and got annoyed with one another, but in the end, I discovered how much my family means to me. If our car hadn’t broken down, I would have gone to my room to read, Ben would have watched his movie, Jordan would have done her hair, and Erika would have found some work to do and we would not have had the chance to spend some quality time together. Although I would have never wished for our car to break down, it turned out to make my birthday so much more special then I could have imagined. My family hadn’t had the opportunity to just talk in so long that I had forgotten how nice it could be to simply spend time with them. It may not seem like that much of an epiphany, but I learned that a bad circumstance can do you a wealth of good if you are willing to look past the negative and find the positive.