Caroline laughs and it’s raining all day
She loves to be one of the girls
She lives in the place
In the side of our lives
Where nothing is ever put straight
She turns herself round
And she smiles and she says
“This is it. That's the end of the joke”
And loses herself in her dreaming and sleep
And her lovers walk through in their coats
Pretty in pink
Pretty in pink
A funny thing happens after you graduate from high school and get busy building your career, signing up for mortgages, and starting families. Somehow the words your parents said, "I just don't understand kids today" come out of your mouth. Somehow your favorite radio station is no longer the one playing the top 40, but one that plays a mix of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Somehow the movies and songs you loved as a teenager find their way into your kids lives as "retro". And, then suddenly, out of nowhere, your baby turns 16.
Last weekend, we celebrated Emma's 16th birthday by taking her and her friend to New York City for dinner and a Broadway show. On the drive up, they popped in the movie Pretty in Pink and started to laugh. For those who don't know, Pretty in Pink is a classic 80s teenage saga depicting the lives of Andie, Blaine, and Duckie and their high school struggles through cliques, friendship, and love. Andie is a poor girl who falls in love with the rich boy (Blaine) while her best friend Duckie tries to find a way to explain his love for her. The beauty of the story is that despite all the pains of being teenagers, Andie stays true to herself and her friends.
As I drove through New Jersey and listened to the movie I thought about Emma's struggles in high school and how she has overcome them. Last year while we were dealing with the emotion of Maddie's diagnosis, she was quietly trying to understand why she could not make it up stairs as fast as the others and how embarrassing it was to trip in the hallways. Inside, I'm sure she knew she too had Pompe, but did not want to bother us with it. She maintained patience and focus. A year after her diagnosis and ten months of Lumizyme treatments she is stronger, doing well in school, and most importantly happy. Despite a tough road for my 16 year old, she has been patient, remained true to herself and to her dear friends.
In Pennsylvania you don't receive your driver's license the day you turn 16. Rather, you receive your driver's permit and have to wait six months for that prized possession. This offers you a bit more time to understand what it means to drive and a bit more time to accept the freedom that comes with growing up. While Donna and I walked the streets of NYC, Emma and her friend walked a little bit behind us and when she wanted to share a destination with her friend, we let her go on her own. There was no discussion of Pompe nor questions if she could keep up her strength walking the long distances, just a 16 year old slowly accepting the freedom of growing up and two parents patiently coming to understand what it means.
We finished our night with The Phantom of the Opera at The Majestic Theater. Both of the girls had heard bits and pieces of the story and a song or two, but did not know what lied ahead. At the intermission, they looked at us trying to make sense of what they'd seen and asked if that was the end. We told them to be patient, think about the experience, and wait for the final act. At the end of the show they sat in their seats with tears understanding the power of love gained and love lost.
As we drove home past midnight, the girls watched the conclusion of Pretty in Pink. At the end of the movie, Andie goes to her senior prom alone and meets up with her best friend Duckie. While he wants nothing more than to spend the evening with his hidden love, Blaine arrives, and Duckie tells her, "If you don't go to him now, I'm never gonna take you to another prom again! This is an incredibly romantic moment, and you're ruining it for me." So off she goes with her love while her friend smiles. It's a bit happier than the Phantom ending, but the meaning is the same.
As the credits began to roll, the song "Pretty in Pink" started to play and I found myself quietly singing words I thought I'd forgotten. I sang and smiled knowing how lucky we were to share a Sweet 16 with Emma and how lucky we will be as we continue to watch her grow emotionally and physically. She too will experience the power of love gained and love lost, but with her strength and support from family and friends, my baby will be OK.
So I guess it doesn't matter too much that my radio station plays the oldies or that sometimes I don't understand kids today. In the end, we parents are the lucky ones. Whether my Emma is 1, 8, 16, or 32, in my mind and in my heart she will always be...
Pretty in pink
Pretty in pink
Happy Birthday Emma! Make a Wish!
Credit to: The Psychedelic Furs, "Pretty in Pink"