8-18 Media: Sweet 16 in quarantine

Anja McBride smiles as she holds a unicorn pinata during her 16th birthday celebration. (Photo courtesy of Anja McBride)

This past year, I have written a lot about how much plans have changed and had to be re-molded because of the pandemic. On February 27th, I turned 16 -years- old. Words cannot explain how happy I was to no longer be 15, because less than three weeks after my 15th birthday, Covid hit, so this past year has been very challenging for me. During my immense free time stuck at home during Covid, I tend to think of the future. This past summer, I was thinking about how much of an extreme bummer it would be that I could not have a big party with all of my family and friends for my Sweet 16, but then as the weeks and days began to count down and it rapidly approached, we started putting plans together, and it turns out that my Sweet 16 was the best party I have ever had in my life.

My amazing friend Althea and I knew that both of our families were safe to be around each other, so my mom rented a small suite at Comfort Suites. It had two beds, a couch, a mini-fridge, microwave, TV, a large bathroom, and everything else a good hotel room has. The cool thing is, I was born two months early, and just so happened to pop out on my mom’s 25th birthday, so it was her birthday too. Though unfortunately for her, as a mom of a little, hyper, girl, my birthday often overshadowed hers and all she got was a few gifts from our family and a hug from me. But another cool thing is that Althea’s mom just so happens to be my mom’s BFF, and is also named Lisa like my mom, so that is just one unique reason our families have been tied pretty close together ever since we met about 5 years ago.

We arrived at the hotel and lugged bags into the room, so many of them that it made it seem as if we were staying for a week and not one night. Our moms sent us to the pool while they decorated, and I bravely dipped my toes in the hot tub for the first time in many years, surprised when I found myself adjusting fairly quickly until my entire body had slid into the warm jacuzzi water. We went back and forth between the pool and hot tub for about two hours before heading back upstairs, where our parents surprised us with the decorations.

It was much more than I had ever expected my mom to pull off. There was a streamer wall, as well as a tapestry hanging off of the side of the dresser that said “Happy Sweet 16.” My baby picture sat on the table and balloons lined the floor. On the TV table sat gluten-free Oreos, Mexican Soda, mini glass Coca Cola bottles that my mom had customized the label to say messages like, “Anjas Sweet 16” and “The Bday twins.” There were also six pounds of gummy bears, courtesy of my amazing Uncle Stan of Lombard, Illinois, who during the past year of quarantine has sent me a total of 18 pounds of candy. There was also a mini Reese’s Blizzard cake, and a tub of rocky road ice cream, my absolute least flavor, which my mom knew but decided to buy anyway as a cheesy photo op since lately, life has been a rocky road.

We ordered Sol Azteca Mexican food, my favorite food venue in Marquette, and our moms left to go enjoy themselves with some “Adult time,” aka going to a bar and then eating at Hudson’s with my moms other BFF, Patti, who she has known since she was a teenager. Besides returning to the room around 11:00 p.m., they only stopped by about a half-hour after leaving to drop off our food. Althea got enchiladas, and I tried something I had never tried before, the fajita quesadilla, which I can now add to my list of favorites from their menu. We sat on our beds, laughing as we caught up, took photos, watched TV, and played Mario Kart, eventually hooking it up to the hotel TV, which turned out to be extremely easy with my Nintendo Switch system. We were laughing because I was getting first place every time with the most basic and common of power-ups, and Althea was placing in the bottom five even though she was getting the best power-ups. But eventually, she got a little better after adjusting to the tiny Nintendo Switch controls. When our moms came back, we played Mario Kart and Scattergories with them and downed more sugar before Althea’s mom left for the night and we began to wind down, relaxing quietly on our separate screen devices in bed. Strangely, over two hours since we had calmed down, we received a warning in the form of a noise complaint for walking too loud, even though it had been hours since we had left the bed.

Around 2:00 a.m., we drifted off to sleep, waking up the next morning and starting to pack up our things before having a 10:00 a.m. Zoom chat with most of my family, who live out of state and I miss them dearly. I thanked my cousins from D.C. for three more Funko Pops to add to my newly created collection that I am obsessed with, and I geeked out the moment I had opened the box to find them. I thanked Uncle Stan for the candy, and Auntie Mo for the great book, T-shirt, and puzzle. Althea and her mom had stuffed a mini pinata with candy, and given me a custom card with a 40 dollar Target gift card. Everyone laughed when I thought the pinata was too sweet and cute and a great gift, so instead of tearing it open or bashing it, I carefully opened the candy hole and pried out every piece so the pinata was kept in perfect condition. We chatted for over half an hour with my family, who Althea had never met before but my family knew of her from how often I mention her and our friendship. My family sang Happy Birthday and then we signed off, finishing packing up our things and heading home, where I then spent the rest of the day chowing down on candy while tending to my Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island. I ended up not sleeping well and then staying home because I did not feel the best after the massive consumption of sugar.

What I learned on my Sweet 16 is that besides the fact I won’t be getting a car any time soon, was that even in the toughest of circumstances you can have the best time with friends and family by your side, whether that be virtual or in person. Thank you to my family for sticking with me for the past 16 years, and thank you to my friends for making me smile every time I think of them, which happens to be a lot. Now it’s time to make it to 17, and then before I know it, my mom will have an adult daughter, which I am not sure she is entirely ready to face by the look on her face when I mention that fact. All I know is that now, I am 16, and hopefully, Covid will be a distant memory by the time my next birthday rolls around.


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