Aly Turns 17 Today

By , July 22, 2010

Today, somewhere on Snare Creek in the Yukon Charley Rivers National Preserve, a young girl—or, I should say, a young lady, turns 17 years old. Today, on the Zeiger family homestead, Sarah Alexandra—Aly—is, more than ever, in our hearts and minds today.

I augmented this group photo from Aly's birthday party in 2008 to give it an old-fashioned feel (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

It’s not easy to let your only child go off to adventure on her own; far less easy to let her do that over her birthday! Today all three of us get a taste of what the future inevitably holds for us: birthdays spent apart.

This year there won’t be a party, based around a theme, inevitably an adventure of some kind.  Most of the parties we threw her in the past involved maps, equipment, searches, mild perils, secrets and puzzles. On several of her birthdays she has led bands of pirates in search of treasure. The first one, in Juneau, took place in the house on a rainy day, when Aly was quite small. Both pairs of grandparents were present, helping with the party. Her grandfathers blew up balloons to scatter around the living room floor; apparently, they became a bit competitive. When the children, fresh from hunting treasure, crowded excitedly into the room, they raised the temperature until the overfilled balloons expanded, popping one by one. The children fell silent in awe, and in the quiet we managed to redirect them to a less rambunctious activity.

The last and perhaps most elaborate adventure birthday party led her and a group of friends through a series of archaeology-related puzzles, including Mayan symbols chalked on a cave wall, Jefferson wheels, and a message in positions on a chess board, to a rocky cleft where a mummified figure clutched her birthday present and a bundle of treats. One of the girls took to the mummy so enthusiastically that Aly gave it to her—Aly found the papier maché figure a bit gruesome for her taste!

This year, she’s celebrating with a real archaeological adventure!

Here at home, seventeen years later to the day, it’s just Michelle and me. Then, we waited expectantly to meet this new person who would become the center of our lives. Now, we anticipate the changes we’ll see in her after this current adventure, this new opportunity for growth.

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