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2007: Adolescence

Here is our annual update from December 2007.

It’s that time again:

Best Wishes for the Holidays from Santa Cruz to you!

Our adolescents remained determinedly adolescent again this year, which was not even a week old when Tom called, his voice cracking, barely able to confess. He and a few buddies had slept in the house of a friend of the family’s. Unfortunately, the friend had left town three months before, and the house was sitting empty when the group walked in through the unlocked French windows one evening.

Tom fell asleep clutching his guitar, as ever, in a hammock visiting Perpignan at the end of the year. He was with friends from Paris.

They were still there making pancakes the next morning when the neighbor charged with looking after the house arrived, with our departed friend on his cell phone. The punch line? The friend is an FBI agent, and the house had been purchased by the FBI, a perk offered to its people. This group of adolescents was trespassing on FBI property! No damage, no break-in, and the friend was kind enough to let it go, but not before Tom got the shock of his life.

He got another shock in March when he was mugged by three kids about his age and had his wallet stolen. But not before fighting back and hitting one of them on the side of his head with the skateboard he was swinging around to defend himself! He then identified the key perpetrator on police photos that they showed him at High School, even though he was nervous about making enemies on the street. That’s the way, Tom! Don’t let them wear you down, and hold your head up.

Charlie on the attack for the Breakers ’95 at a tournament in Pleasanton.

Charlie’s Breakers soccer team had a great run its first time in the State Cup, making it to the final four. Charlie scored twice in the round of 16. That was on the Saturday. At lunch after the game Paul Gooch, his coach, was doing his best to alert the parents about avoiding any injury to his boys. The Sunday morning, Charlie was sleeping over at a friend’s house and bicycling in unfamiliar territory. Hitting a culvert at the bottom of a steep hill, he flew over the handlebars and broke both wrists and a finger.

Ouch. Ups and downs. That’s what life is made of, and Charlie got a real dose of life there. He couldn’t play in the remainder of the State Cup, spending the quarter and semi finals on the sidelines.

He was still in luck, though. The parents where he was sleeping over made him wear a helmet. He landed on his head as well as his hands, and was dizzy after the crash, and couldn’t see clearly for a few minutes. But the helmet saved him from much worse.

It’s upside down, but Alex doesn’t care: $100 is $100, even when you’re only eight!

Later in February, we held Alex‘s birthday party at Indoor Soccer Central in Watsonville. As Alex’s birthday was in late January, you will note that we are already running a little late. At the party too! We arrived after the announced time, to small boys sighing with relief: “there they are!” We did bring matches to light the candles, but somehow had left the striking surface behind. Nobody had a lighter, which gave rise to the intriguing spectacle of Marie-Hélène trying to strike a match on the zipper of her jeans! The mothers there all laughed among themselves, and in the interests of marital harmony we will make no further comment!

The soccer was the highlight of the event, and was needless to say a blast, especially when the parents took on the nine-year olds, and lost. You try to outrun or out-maneuver a swarm of fearless nine-year olds!

Daphne in Brittany diring her summer vacation: taken by Marie-Helene near her father’s place.

Daphné keeps on working part-time and studying full-time, which makes the parents suitably content. This year, she too began to see the advantages of doing so. Every fortnight during the ski season, she and her then beau took off for Lake Tahoe, where they had season passes at Heavenly. They, and whoever else they were with, squeezed into a cheap motel room for the two nights, and spend days looking out over the lake as they skied some of the most scenic runs imaginable. Now that’s what it means to enjoy being young!

At one point, we reminded her that she was asked to get a job before we bought her a car so that she would be in a position to insure and maintain it. This, she had completely forgotten, and what are we going to do, take away her skiing?

Nick spent a good six months in France at the beginning of the year, getting it together (as we said in the 70s: not sure what they say now). He lived at his mother’s, and worked over the internet for a web design company in Santa Cruz. In March, he proudly announced that he had billed 130 hours. Now that will help anyone get it together!

Nick with two PCs, his preferred working environment.

If only he could have limited his late night visits to the local casinos! Unfortunately, he makes almost as much per hour at poker as he does database programming. We eagerly informed him by email that early registration for his college was starting, to which he replied that he had a preference for late registration!

This year marked a hundred years after psychoanalysts gave the term “adolescence” its modern meaning. What was the combination of reduced IQ and impaired judgment called before 1907?

Tom furnished another of our more inspiring adolescent behaviors this year. Having not met our reasonable criteria for being given his first car, Tom decided that he would make us angry enough that we would be obliged to give him one anyway, just to shut him up. Oh yeah, that’ll work! Tom still does not have a car, although he is closer to meeting our criteria. In November, he actually earned his first $50 from playing the guitar, in a local café with a friend on violin. The first real job came in December, at a pizza joint in the Catalyst rock’n’roll club. Not a bad job for a guitar player.

Alban at La Gree during his summer vacation, taken by his mother.

Alban finally received the keys to his car on his birthday, his eighteenth, a little late because it had taken him a while to meet those same reasonable criteria. Unlike Tom, he had not compounded his problem by attempting to grind us into some sort of submission. The car he had known about in advance: he would inherit his mother’s car. Although her Volvo was still worth good money, it was a Volvo: we had settled on it for Alban in large part because of the safety features.

On his birthday, I decided that we should add to this for his coming of age, and at the last minute found a surprise Xbox console customized for the hip game of the period, Halo 3. Two days before, Halo 3 had become the most successful commercial video game introduction ever. Alban was thrilled, explained that he and his friends had been talking about collectively buying the same console and game, and called his friends to tell them he now had them both himself. In short, he positively gushed his appreciation. It’s a pleasure, kiddo!

Alban’s eighteenth birthday, his coming of age, was one of the year’s significant milestones. Nick turned 21, the legal age for drinking in California, and Tom too came of age. Tom and Alban both graduated high school this summer, and Charlie graduated from Happy Valley School. Oh yes, and in December, Ian reached 55, thus becoming entitled to order from the senior menu at Denny’s, a nationwide chain of diners.

Not a lot seemed to change after these various events. If you don’t have adolescents in your home, you may not understand the frustration attributable to every special piece of food in the fridge disappearing, however well its intended use is identified, or the difficulty parking intelligently, to cite just a couple of our daily challenges.

But their single most annoying and anti-authoritarian pattern over the last few years has involved stealing our liquor. We almost never drink liquor ourselves, but noticed that the level of fluid in liquor bottles was constantly dropping. First, we had locking drinks cupboards installed. They learned how to break into the cabinets with depressing alacrity. We bought less liquor, made various threats and entreaties, but still it disappeared.

We had talked about throwing what little remained down the sink in front of the adolescents, to make the point clear to them. But on second thoughts, that wasn’t enough. In the kitchen after Alban’s birthday, we systematically emptied all the open liquor bottles, and replaced the liquor with water (vodka, gin, white rum) or tea (brandy, scotch, bourbon and tequila). Our only regret is that we did not see their faces when they found the water and tea!

Charlie enjoys wordplay. “What begins with an ‘f’ and rhymes with duck?” Think about it, if you can get that looming first response out of your head. “Firetruck!” he announced, with pride. At one point during the year, I forget when, he announced as he was going to bed that he didn’t pray, he hoped.

We too hope, that your Holiday Season will be as full of cheer as ours in Santa Cruz, and that your 2008 will be a warm and wonderful year.

Zinzins in California!