Our son turns eighteen today. In the UK he's legally an adult, responsible for all his actions, and in return, granted full participant in the world around him. Get on a plane and fly back to Japan after a vacation and it's a little bit of a shadow land for the next two years. He can vote for a government, join the Self Defence Force, drive a car, get married and be legally bound by a contract however until he is nineteen he would still be tried as a minor in a court of law and, given everything above, he still can't buy a beer in a bar until he's twenty.
Strangely I don't remember my actual eighteenth birthday day though I still have the gift from my parents (a beautiful watch) and the one from my brother (an engraved pewter tankard). However, I do remember the night before. I walked to my local pub, asked for a pint (of warm beer) and sat quietly and alone in the corner, supping it slowly, contemplating how life was about to change. It was a weekday early evening and the barmaid looked across the empty room and quietly asked "last one before you're legal, love?" I smiled, realising my secret never really was that much of a secret after all.
And now he's eighteen, but I can still walk up the road with him in the mornings as we talk about the world. He's grown to manhood in Japan but lived the experiences of his life in a vast international community with students from some forty plus countries in attendance at his school. He's our only child and so many have asked won't we be sad when he leaves us soon for university overseas. Of course we'll miss him, though this will be tempered by Skype, Line, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram etc etc etc. But sad? No. An overwhelming sense of pride though? I can't find the words. Happy Birthday.