On March 7, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for the telephone. Which is appropriate because March 7, 2013 is the day that my daughter, Zoe, celebrates her 21st birthday. It is appropriate not necessarily because she spends a lot of time talking on the phone – as is the case for most people her age, she uses her phone more as a device for texting and sending messages rather than actually talking – but her phone is attached to her almost surgically.
Zoe has always had a lot to say. Deep in her heart and soul, Zoe is a communicator and takes advantage of whatever technology is available to get her point across. She manages to speak more words during a day than I would have thought was humanly possible. When she was young and just learning to talk we used to ask her at the end of the day, “is your mouth tired?” Zoe takes justifiable pride in her writing and is an experienced public speaker. She wants to change the world and understands how the power of words – of clear communication – is key to making things happen. She always used to ask us, “what are you talking about?” This is a person who wants to be on top of whatever is going on.
It is not without irony as a writer that I consider what words to use as I contemplate the meaning of my only child turning 21. She is a full-fledged adult now in the eyes of the law, legally able to drink and drive (although not at the same time) and vote and get married and live independently of her parents. In some senses, our job as parents is done, and we are bursting with pride at the person she has become, and at the potential contribution she can make to the world. But we are incredibly blessed to have her still close enough to us that we remain important in her life, consulted on important decisions and asked for help solving problems large and small (mostly large, or small ones that loom large, for the record). And there is still one more year of undergraduate tuition to pay, for which we are primarily responsible.
Zoe is in many ways her father’s daughter – she has his sense of humor, determination, and ability to get along with almost anyone. I like to think that from me she got her dedication, persistence, and commitment to clear communication, along with a love of action movies and education in the history of rock and roll. (We’re looking forward to seeing Fleetwood Mac together in April.)
Zoe also is creative. She took ballet and jazz lessons, fell in love with ceramics during high school, and played cello for eight years. She is my biggest supporter in the adventure that is my career as an artist, which combines my interpretation of words presented in artful ways – when you think about it, that is exactly what an invitation provides.
We’re meeting Zoe in Connecticut on Saturday for a brief official celebration of her milestone. I’m looking forward to ordering her a legal glass of champagne and hoisting it high in a toast to her past, present, and future. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.