Sixteen Candles

I hear the clanging as the paramedic drops the crowbar onto the gravel. Reaching in, he holds my head still while another paramedic wraps a brace around my neck. The silence worries me, and I can’t turn my head to see if Mom is okay.

The next thing I know I am lying on the ground with only a thin wooden board separating me from the shards of stone beneath. Somebody tapes my forehead to the stretcher as the hail continues to beat down on my face. I try to turn away but the brace reminds me, once again, that I can’t. I want to see what is happening but my only defense against the angry sky is to close my eyes.

The sound of raining ice-rocks drowns a distant siren. The paramedic returns and begins to ask me dumb questions.

What is your name? Denise

How are old you? Sixteen.

When is your birthday? Today.

I interrupt the interrogation. “Is my mom okay?”

The paramedic evades my question. In the shortest terms, he says that we are being transported to the nearest hospital. It’s an hour away. The stretcher then wobbles as they pick me up and carry me to a vehicle with flashing lights.

Forced to stare at the ceiling of the ambulance, I strain to see with my ears as the paramedics rush around us in a curious mix of control and speed. I hear my mom answering similar questions. She sounds okay, but the concern in her voice troubles me.

A flurry of detached voices and hushed whispers surround us. Nobody will explain what is happening, and the drive takes longer than an hour. Fear consumes me more than the pain.

My sixteenth birthday.

We were supposed to spend the day shopping. Just Mom and me. But a sudden hailstorm froze the highway, causing someone to crash into us. Now it’s a trip to the hospital instead of the mall.

Hours later, the doctors release us, but we still wait a while longer for my stepdad to make the hundred-mile-drive. We need a ride home.

Banged up and bruised, we are sore and tired, but thankful that only the car was permanently damaged. Her brand new car. Totaled. Thank God I wasn’t driving. I would never hear the end of it for the rest of my life if I had crashed Mom’s new car on the first day of getting my driver’s license.


This day comes to mind because, twenty-two years later, I am now planning my daughter’s sixteenth birthday party. She will remember it forever. So I want it to be fun. Memorable. In a good way.

For the next few days, I will take a brief hiatus from blogging, so I can devote myself to party planning. If you have any ideas on ways to make memories, please pass them along.

What do you remember most about your sixteenth birthday?

20 thoughts on “Sixteen Candles

  1. That sounds wonderful! And I agree, some parties do become more like wedding receptions – way over the top. It sounds like you did a great job of giving her some fun memories. 🙂

  2. You are so right. Some of the sweet sixteen parties that Simone has gone to have been “over the top.” I can appreciate the way you honored your stepdaughter with her wishes. I can relate too as I am definitely on the “reticent” side myself. My daughter, though, likes to celebrate with LOTS of people. It's so funny how everybody's different. 🙂

  3. Hi DJ… I'm so glad you were okay! That's so scary. I spent my 16th birthday at Young Life camp in Malibu, CA. I remember it well because my friend (who was a boy) bought me that “Sunflowers” lotion that was so popular way back in 1993 and I thought it was pretty much the most romantic thing ever. Anyway…

  4. I just read your blog. Wow, Denise….You are a great mom and everything that you did was perfect! I am super amazed at your creativity. You not only created a great day for your daughter, but for all the kids that came, as well as those who were invited as guests and were unable to come! I am sure that it was great fun just to get the invitation. I will pray for an extra measure of peace as Simone starts driving! Please pray for us too. Rachel goes to take her driving test this week. Once again, THANK YOU and I hope that you enjoy all the sweet memories that you helped everyone create. I know that they could see your love for your daughter and I am sure that they could see your love for God. I love you Denise!

  5. What a chilling story…with a good ending! Glad you were OK. I'm not surprised you remember that as you plan your daughter's BD. Hope you have a wonderful party!!

  6. When Kelli turned 16, her friends dressed her up in a funny green thrift store jumpsuit and hat, and made her do goofy things out in the community, kind of like a scavenger hunt. One thing she had to do was yell that it was her birthday on the bleechers of Claremont High School in front of the marching band. The other thing we did was request that people give to a charity in her honor. Fun memories. Whatever you do, I know you'll make it very special and take lots of photos! I like Pam's scrapbook idea. Have fun and happy birthday Simone! You are blessed with many friends!

  7. I don't remember anything about my 16th birthday, I'm afraid. My stepdaughter celebrated her 16th birthday with us the day before Christmas, and I begged her for hints for what I could do to make it special, but she was very reticent. Which leads me to the conclusion that perhaps too much hype abou the “specialness” of the big sweet sixteen; girls might almost feel that it's better to let it slide than try to plan something big that might fail expectations. Does this make any sense? not that I am trying to put on damper on your plans! In fact, I am eager to hear how your daughter's birthday goes (and hopefully NOT LIKE YOURS!!! WOW – what a frightening experience!). I have four more sweet sixteens coming up (not for several years yet though!) and I'd like to do more than I did for my stepdaughter – I obeyed her wishes to keep it just within the family and not make a big deal of it.

  8. Wow, Denise. What a story! I can see why you are wanting to give Simone the best memory for her 16th!
    When Nicole turned 16 we had a pool party with several of her girlfriends. I wanted Nicole to remember these friends at this particular time in her life, so I got a small 8 x 8 scrapbook from Michael's and bought colored paper and lots of fun stickers and embellishments. I then took a picture of each girl with Nicole during the party. Then I printed each photo off with my small photo printer and gave it to the girl it corresponded to and then they each scrapbooked one page with the photo, colored markers and embellishments. It only took each girl about 10 minutes and it was done throughout the party. Nicole knew what they were doing but she didn't get to see the finished product until all the girls were done. Oh, my goodness, she absolutely loved it and the girls had so much fun doing it. They said the sweetest things to her and she was so touched.
    The other thing I did was I got some cheap party favor sunglasses for them to wear. At first they thought it was kinda silly because they were a little too small for them….but once one of the girls put them on and started taking photos of herself they all jumped in and the giggles began. We have lots of great photos of them in the jacuzzi with the sunglasses on.
    Give the girls the camera and they will take all the pictures you need to commemorate Simone's 16th. :^)
    If you want to borrow my photo printer you are welcome to it. :^)
    Blessings,
    Pam Armstrong

  9. I didn't have a sweet 16 party..no one did that back in 1976! at least not where i'm from. for my daughter in 2009 when she turned 16 she had 16 of her closest friends over for a pizza/backyard bonfire party. colors were pink and black including m&m's and punch, favors, etc. We put the ipod thingy on the deck and they all danced the nite away….it was loads of fun for her. many people in our town really go “all out” to the point of almost as costly as a wedding reception. we said no way. We ARE giving her a big grad party this summer as she goes off to college in late august. Another special memory of her turning 16 was when we presented her purity ring to her (it was what she wanted for her gift…..she made her own pledge of purity. and the ring came with a special Scripture. it was a special time!

  10. so thankful that you were both fine! so scary….

    happy birthday to your sweet girl. i still remember all 3 of my girls sweet sixteens. now i am 8 years away from my granddaughters!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s