Holy shit, my baby is 21! A full-fledged adult! As of today, Leah can legally drink herself silly, get married without parental consent, adopt a child, buy a house without a co-signer, get a license to fly a helicopter, gamble herself into debt, and finally go to a movie at the freaking Sundance Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard, a theater whose strict 21-or-over policy has been the bane of her existence for the past several years.
I've been marking Leah’s birthday for the past dozen years on this blog (for the past few years that’s ALL I’ve been doing on it). I just reread my posts for ages 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 and am a bit verklempt at the honor and joy it is to be her father. But, for once, instead of looking back on her birthday, I'm going to try to stick to the present. While having a birthday so close to Christmas can definitely be a drag, the best part of it is that she's home for the holidays. Leah and I are about to go on a 21st birthday hike at Runyon Canyon. Should I bring a bottle of booze for the summit? Nah. Leah is wise enough to know that just because she can now legally drink, it doesn’t mean she has to. On the other hand, I made a comment about her ability to get a tattoo as of her 18th birthday in that year’s post, never thinking that she would, and she had one on her wrist before the ink was dry on my blog! Leah has been very sweet about the few tattoos she’s gotten since, including the largest one that you can see in the above photo. She always calls me beforehand, knowing it’s definitely not my preference, and begins the conversation with such care and seriousness that I end up filled with relief that she’s just planning on getting a tattoo and doesn’t have a life-threatening disease! And I do like her new tattoo, I think it suits her perfectly — and provides a tempting human coloring book page for Charlie! (But that IS the last one you’re getting for a while, right, Leah??)
I’m very moved and grateful that Leah has been the member of our family who most focuses on wanting family time and planning family events. Oh, don’t get me wrong, like most people her age, there are plenty of times when I know we’re driving her nuts and even if she’s too kind and evolved these days to openly roll her eyes, I can sense the internal eye rolls — but the deep love she has for us and the importance she places on family is never in question.
Leah is in her second year at NYU and I am wildly impressed by the level of her scholarly pursuits, her activism on and off campus, and the great circle of friends she has gathered in New York. At Gallatin, her school at NYU, the students create their own “concentrations,” an extended form of what we more boringly called our "majors." Leah has to decide on hers by the end of the year and while she’s explained to me numerous times what she’s planning to do, I can’t say I fully understand it yet (my deficiency, not hers), I only know that I’m grateful that she seems so much more “plugged in” to the world around her than I ever did at the age of 21 and is getting a lot more out of her college experience.
Attempting to stay in the now, I will stifle my desire to start belting “Sunrise, Sunset” from the top of Runyon Canyon (although Leah just saw the new version of "Fiddler on the Roof" in New York starring her Broadway father figure Danny Burstein and loved it!) but I do have to say what an amazing daughter, sister, stepdaughter, niece, granddaughter, cousin, and friend she has been these past 21 years. Yes, she is now officially "of age" and is far more mature than I've ever been, but as her father, will I ever be able to treat her as a full-fledged adult? In a word…no.
Happy Birthday, Leah. I wish you a fabulous year full of happiness, health, fulfillment, and fun. No rush for the booze, marriage, house, helicopters, or gambling, but if you ever feel the need to roll your eyes at me over the next 21 years or so, go right ahead! I love you so much.