My step-niece, Anya, turned fifteen a couple of weeks ago. We don’t see her much anymore since my sister, Roshan, and her husband split up, since Anya is his daughter from his first marriage. But today we had a few hours together and were able to celebrate her being a bang in the middle of her teens. I’ve known her since she was a cute little 3-year old with spectacular red hair. When she was little I remember her asking, “Do people just like me because of my hair?” Now at fifteen, she is taller than me, cute in a very different way now, and she knows how to work that gorgeous hair. She is crazy about music and certain male pop singers, and adores her friends, with whom she maintains close contact via her precious, and well used, cell phone.
Fifteen. I remember how desperately important it was to be in constant contact with my friends. One evening I had a three-hour phone conversation with one friend, and one night I apparently got up and answered the phone in my sleep. I also remember being very keen to grow up and be in charge of everything. I had my first serious boyfriend, I sold my own hand-made jewelry in a local boutique, and I became president of the school’s student council and editor of the yearbook. I dressed the part too, strutting around school in high heels, a pencil skirt, and huge shoulder pads – it was the mid eighties after all. I had dreams of great power.
Three years later, we had moved from Canada to England and I working as a waitress in a restaurant in Cambridge in my year out (gap year) before college. I loved the job and became friends with a glamorous French waitress, who was also an artist. For my birthday, she gave me a very elegant black and silver beaded purse that was much fancier than any other purse I had. I have kept it for 30 years and have used it on special occasions. It always made me feel grown up. Today I gave it to Anya as a belated birthday present. She seemed to genuinely like it and insisted on wearing it right away, even though we weren’t being particularly fancy this afternoon. But it worked nicely, providing a shiny accent to her casual t-shirt, shorts and boots she was wearing. And the best thing about it was that her cell phone fits in it perfectly.