Um, time

Saturday was my son’s 21st birthday.

I remember the day he was born. I remember the first day the nurses let me take him outside (into the rose garden at the hospital). I remember taking him home and the health visitor saying he was an old soul as we sat there in my front room.

I remember riding home in a taxi with him (when he was maybe 5) and my father after a holiday in Florence, Italy. It was late evening and there was a huge white moon hanging low in the sky. He was talking to and about the moon. He was a late talker but once he started, he had something to say about everything.

And I remember a lunch on that trip at which I ordered him the pasta and tomato sauce because that’s what he liked to eat and ordered myself the chicken special. He ate the chicken special and I ate the pasta (I got some chicken), and that was the start of his awareness that you should order the interesting thing at a restaurant rather than what you got at the café in the park at home – ie, it was the beginning of his proper relationship with food as pleasure rather than just sustenance.

I remember the deal we made that on trips to central London he would sit still and read in Liberty while I sampled perfume if we could then go to the horrific toy store Hamleys and look at the Thomas the Tank Engine stuff. Sometimes I’d put stuff on him and explain I needed to see if it smelled different on him vs me. Once he was about 8, once in a while he would ask if I needed different skin.

For the first 15 years of his life we holidayed in NYC with his grandfather. His light-bulb moment of what NYC actually offered came at around age 10. We arrived in the city during a huge snowstorm. The next day his uncle took him sledding in Prospect Park and we had hot chocolate at a sadly now gone café on 7th Avenue called Ozzy’s. We ate lunches and dinners out. It became the gold standard for what one did on holidays: the eating, that is. He would accept breakfast at home, but all other meals needed to be “interesting”.

As he aged and became particularly interested in the development and structures of cities, walking and discussing different parts of the city got added to eating as key aspects of those NYC visits.

I had promised a ‘tropical’ holiday when he finished secondary school. I didn’t really think much about destination until the year before, when I came into some money and we could actually do a sort of bucket list trip. We ended up on a tiny island 30 miles north of the equator in the Maldives. He was over the moon. He had asked for perfect blue/green sea and perfect white sand and that’s what he got – along with great food twice a day (we didn’t bother eating lunch) and seeing sharks and colourful fish every day. (I enjoyed it all too…)

He went off to uni to study urban planning and human development. Six months later, he came home and stayed during covid, doing the awful but necessary online ‘learning’ thing. He was finally able to live there again for third year. Which he finished a month ago. Last week, he received his last mark, which confirmed he’d get the ‘good’ degree he wanted.

We went to his favourite Japanese restaurant here for birthday lunch and then brought home the weirdest birthday cake with chocolate cream, marshmallows and crumbled biscuit.

I wore Guerlain Shalimar parfum to celebrate my son’s birthday: sweet, weird, complex, flummoxing, heart-wrenching, contradictory, gorgeous.

  • Ann says:

    Where can we get real L perfume.

  • Dina C. says:

    Cinnamon, what a heart-melting love letter to your relationship with your son!! Aww. I can so relate, as my son is 25 and just graduated in December. (Daughter is 22.) I loved how you used him as living paper blotters while testing scents! That’s hilarious. So charming and endearing reading about your enjoyment of meals eaten together. Blessings to him as he enters into this new chapter of his life!

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx, Dina, and best wishes back at your kids. His skin reflects scents much better than mine does, and has for a long time. I had thought of buying him a ‘special’ fragrance for turning 21 but ended up not doing it. Might do him a sample bag though …

  • Portia says:

    Being a parent must be a constant, torturous struggle with choices, money, challenges and ungratefulness. I have zero interest in that kind of journey but anyone who manages to get a kid to 21 that’s likeable and understands even a little bit about the world needs to be applauded.
    So, applause, applause, applause to you Cinnamon.

    He sounds cool.
    So does his Shalimar wearing Mum.
    Portia x

    • cinnamon says:

      Indeed, I have friends who think the whole parent thing is thoroughly overrated and in general this is not something we discuss much. And you’re certainly right on the list — there are definitely negatives unless you are consistently very well off financially. Sometimes he’s cool, sometimes he’s not. Anyone who says their kid(s) is(are) awesome all the time is lying.

      • Portia says:

        I hear you. Much the same as partners, workmates, even BFFs. Anyone you’re in close proximity with for extended periods of time. It’s impossible to be perfect or awesome ALL the time.

  • Maya says:

    Speaking of birthdays – HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TOM!!! Wishing you many many more wonderful ones!

  • Maya says:

    Lovely memories. Thanks for sharing.

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx. Interestingly, once he worked out that travel led to good things he was great at that (ie, never that toddler behind you screaming the whole plane journey and kicking your seat).

  • Tom says:

    Your son seems like a great guy. Kudos to you for keeping is outlook broad.

    • cinnamon says:

      Most of the time he is a good person (see reply to Musette). There is definitely a stubbornness in there though — which can be both positive and negative. But indeed his outlook is broad and he is an explorer.

  • Kathleen says:

    Happy birthday to your son! He has had a remarkable life and experiences with you. Congratulations on a job well done as parent. xx

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx. I think in comparison to some of his friends he’s done and seen more, and has somewhat broader horizons. But I guess that’s what happens when you live in one country and the majority of family is in another.

  • Musette says:

    What a lovely life he’s had, so far. Sounds like it’s in large part because of you. Happy 21st, Son of cinnamon. Many, many, many more in health and happiness!


    • cinnamon says:

      Oh, I left out the unpleasant bits of course (like the huge rows over certain things and the time he lay down in the middle of the National Gallery entry and wouldn’t get up…). But yes here’s to positive things going forward. Please.

  • March says:

    What a lovely post. He does indeed sound like an “old soul” and what wonderful anecdotes. You gave him a ground to build on for the rest of his life. Kids grow up and leave but (at least in my case!) sometimes they come back, and they’re always with you in your heart even when they’re far away. After a year of lockdown I couldn’t wait for them to go off on their own, and of course I miss them!

    • cinnamon says:

      Lordy me, it’s nice when he’s here, it’s nice when he goes off to do other things. He left yesterday to pack himself up so a bit of quiet time. Then, he’s back for a few weeks, and then he plans to travel a bit before the what next.

  • filomena813 says:

    Loved this post! Happy 21st Birthday to your son. I have three sons and remember all of their births. Two of my sons live in a different state than me and only one lives within driving distance. He is the only one I get to see on a regular basis. He has two children (a girl and a boy) so there are always birthday events to celebrate, among other things. It all goes by too fast and before we know they are adults.

  • Tara C says:

    What a great post, celebrating your life together, as he prepares to start his own life as a man. Happy birthday to him and hugs to you!

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx. It was a good day and it was sweet thinking back to the lovely things (leaving out the meltdowns of course).

  • matty1649 says:

    Lovely post…. Shalimar perfect X

    • cinnamon says:

      Tx. Shalimar was perfect. I sat for a long while that morning trying to work out what would fit.