Like Cinderella’s, my curfew was midnight. If I wasn’t back in my Queens bedroom when the clock struck 12, my boyfriend’s sports car would turn into a pumpkin but my fun summer would turn bleak.
I was 17, my boyfriend was 18, and the year was 1959. We were allegedly going to a local movie, sure to be home on time. Instead, armed with fake proof, we headed for the Big Apple, and the legendary jazz club Birdland, named for Charlie The Bird Parker saxophonist and father of Bebop. Tonight we were seeing Bird’s protégé, Miles Davis the famed trumpet player who was the reigning King of Cool. We were so excited.
At 11:30 I was still nursing my apricot sour and Miles, famously unreliable, hadn’t appeared. I knew if we didn’t split now, I’d face plenty of music at home. Should I stay or should I go? I was sweating, and decided to stay. I convinced myself I was making the right decision by asking my curfewless date, “When will we ever get a chance to see Miles playing with Thelonius Monk ?” My boyfriend smiled his agreement and we clinked glasses to seal the deal.
It was after midnight when Miles appeared on the bandstand, picked up his horn, and blew us away. I had never felt so hip, or inspired. But at 3:00 a.m, the sensation was different: I was sneaking into our apartment, fingers crossed that my folks were sound asleep.
No such luck. There was my mom, the enforcer, wagging a pointy finger, which looked sharp enough to slice Hebrew National salami. She cleverly combined a dire prediction with a classic Jewish Guilt Trip. “Someday, Carol, you’ll be a mother and have a thoughtless and selfish teenager just like you, who stays out all night, God knows where, and you’ll worry yourself sick. Then you’ll know what you put your parents through tonight.”
Then and there I vowed to never ever be a buzz killer and ruin my teenagers fabulous night.
Fast forward about 25 years. I’m not proud to admit it, but not surprised either, that I couldn’t fulfill my vow.
My teenage son David and his friends, huge reggae fans went to see Ziggy Marley at a Manhattan concert. By 2:00 a.m., I was a wreck, pacing the floor. I was ready to call the police soon to see if there were any accidents on the Long Island Expressway. I was pacing the driveway, in a bathrobe when David and a car full of friends pulled up.
David got out, and he was red eyed and wobbly. I asked, O.K. I screeched, ” Look at those bleary eyes. David what were you smoking? Or drinking? Do you think I’m stupid? ” and before he could answer, out popped my mom. “Some day you’ll be a parent…yadda, yadda.”
Next morning I phoned my mom, and when she heard about my stressful night, she wasn’t sympathetic in the least. “Now it’s your turn, ” she chuckled. “What goes around, comes around. Remember the night you went to Birdland, Carol?”
I acknowledged I did.” Carol, I never told you about the riot act my own mother, she should Rest In Peace, read me when I came home late from a party in Brooklyn. Face it Carol, you come from a long line of what if worriers.”
But then she surprised me by adding this analysis of the worriers’ offspring and their own tradition of staying out late: I think blowing a curfew is a teen’s rite of passage to making decisions and pushing back on parental restrictions.”
I can hear her gloating over the phone.