The closest thing I have to a goddaughter is M, the soccer-playing soprano and third-year Aerospace Engineering student who has made occasional appearances on this blog before, and of whom I stood in awe even before she reported earlier this year that she'd scored a 95 for a subject called Space Vehicle Design.
Her birthday is on the last day of winter -- I remember the first one well; I have a vivid memory of sitting on some hard institutional seat in the maternity hospital with her late father, handing him the hip-flask of brandy that my own father had thoughtfully provided for his use -- and yesterday she turned 21, an occasion celebrated with an afternoon tea party.
As she floated down the hall of her auntie's house to greet me I was dumbstruck by what she was wearing --
-- not only because of its perfectly-preserved beauty as a piece of vintage clothing but also because the last time I'd seen it, her mother (above right, and below) was wearing it at my own 25th birthday party, 30 years ago:
I don't get a lot of opportunities to observe the young en masse, but there would have been about 60 people there yesterday, of whom only ten or fifteen were my generation or older. Most of the more-or-less-21-year-olds would have been from either the soccer team or the Adelaide U Choral Society, though in their tea-party clobber -- there were some very pretty floral frocks, waistcoats, bow ties and so on -- it was impossible to tell these two groups apart right up to the moment, not long after that photo was taken, when it came to sing Happy Birthday, which was the most brilliantly tuneful and certainly the only eight-part rendering of Happy Birthday that I've ever heard in my life. Having warmed up with that, the AUCS members present -- at least 25 of them -- sang several other things, most of them through mouthfuls of cake or champagne, and were magnificent.
To a person, the younguns were friendly, sociable and courteous, some of them showing a degree of social adroitness that I don't even have now, much less when I was their age. I saw a great deal of thoughtful behaviour, particularly towards M. Nobody was rude, nobody got drunk, nobody whined and nobody behaved like a prat. Perhaps young persons who join choirs and soccer teams are not necessarily representative of their generation, but I'd like to think they are. Watching and listening to them made me very happy.