I had the first inkling that I’d like CJ even before he and my 17-year-old daughter Katie “got together.”

CJ wields the knife over the turkey.

CJ came to Thanksgiving at our house (turkey courtesy of Katie) along with Katie’s best friend who was visiting from America, Katie’s best friend from Cambridge, and two other girl friends from their school.

They were all clustered at one end of the table, with our family friend Mike, Mike’s son James, and me at the other end, my 8-year-old daughter Meg going back and forth between the two camps.

By the time Thanksgiving dinner was ready, I was pretty tired.  Kathy, back in Boston, always does our big holiday dinners (Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day) so this Thanksgiving we basically had a boy (me, figuratively) doing a man’s job.  But a good time appeared to have been had by all.

When the last piece of pie was eaten and the dishes cleared, I was done for.  I looked around for assistance. My gaze fastened on the bibulous and noisy far end of the table.  “Katie,” I said, “do you think you could get started on the dishes, please?”

Absolutely no movement at the other end as Katie and the other girls remained glued to their seats, looking at me as if I’d asked them to go jump in the Cam.

And then a figure, a bright shining vision, a glow of angelic light pulsing from his blond locks, arose and said “I’ll do the washing up.” This paragon, this apogee of perfection, went downstairs, and with absolutely no help from the four girls, did all the dishes down to the very last pot.

I was smitten.  I wanted him.

But first, Katie had to become smitten. Luckily for me, several months later, she did.

To be honest, after that point I didn’t see much of him, or them.  They were either at school, his house, her room, or out somewhere, but glimpses of his personality filtered through.

He goes to the movies with his mum.

He does dishes and cooks meals at home.

He wrote a Valentine’s card for his mother that made her cry.

He comes into my house, joins me in the kitchen, asks me how things are going, and actually treats me like a person.

I am not used to this.  I am used to the thudding of feet on the stairs when Katie’s friends descend on our house near Boston;  I am used to squeals and laughter in the kitchen which turn to silence when I approach;  and once, yes this is true, I had bread rolls thrown over my head by one of Katie’s friends who was raiding my freezer for food to take with them while I was sitting down to dinner.

I could easily get used to a different way of doing things with CJ.  He is the un-teenager.  I am not used to this, though I could quickly habituate myself.

I have it on good authority that Katie behaves differently around adults who are not her mother, and I believe it.  She can be absolutely lovely, it’s just that she doesn’t waste her loveliness on me.

A case in point: a typical text from Katie to me.


This is what I get when I text her asking when she’ll be home.


This is when I ask her where she is. (Of course, her “here” is my “there,” which couldn’t be more vague.)

And these gems of brevity are when she actually deigns to respond.

Contrast this to CJ’s texts, when they were supposedly en route to Cambridge the night their first train at Whatstandwell didn’t come and they got on the wrong train in Derby and went in completely the wrong direction:

He texted, “Still at whatstandwell [sad emoticon] got to get bus to derby!  Should have gotten dropped off at derby like you said.  We get back to cambs at 11:10!”

OMG, I say to myself.  He actually says that I made a good suggestion and that they should have followed it!  And then he tells me their ETA into Cambridge!  This is information, real information!

Then comes Katie’s phone call at 9:30 saying they’ve taken the wrong train and are lost in deepest Staffordshire.

CJ’s next text at 10 p.m.:  “On train to Birmingham, guy accepted our situation so didn’t have to pay for journey back!  Text you when at a place to stay.”

OMG again!  I know where they are, how it’s working out for them, and that he will text again.

CJ’s text:  “My mum is booking us a room opposite the station called britannia.”

And he’s got his mother involved!

CJ’s text:  “We are safe and well at hotel.  Speak soon night night.”

He’s letting me know they’re okay so I can go to sleep. I have discovered that the years spent as a parent to a teenager are remarkably similar to years spent as a parent to a small child in that they both feature life-altering lack of sleep as you worry that they’ve been in a horrific car crash or are being held captive in a crack den.

Then, the next morning, I receive this text:

“We have just got on the 11:22 train to Cambridge [smiley emoticon again].  We got to the station at 9:10 but there weren’t any trains so we got a bite to eat and read the paper to kill time.  We should arrive in Cambridge at 2:10 where my mum will take us to our separate houses [smile] hope you are okay and have a good day Cj and katie xxx”

OMG AGAIN!  From CJ’s text I know where they are, which train they’re on, when they are due in, who is picking them up, and where each of them is going.  The only thing I don’t know is which newspaper they read, but I can live without knowing that.

CJ ‘s text:  “Yes we are just on the train to Cambridge.  I hope all is good where you are.”

Yes, all is good with me thanks to your texts!

His next text:  “Katie’s laptop in your vauxhall insignia!  She needs to charge her phone and has no way.   I now have Katie’s phone and I will charge it at home and bring it in [to school] tomorrow at 8:45.  We just dropped Katie at her house and she is safe and well.  Have a nice trip home.  Thank you very much for a lovely few days.  Cj”

CJ’s text two hours later:  “Hey Ginnie I have charged Katie’s phone and I’m going to cycle to give it to her so you can text her later if needed.”

This is a round trip of twelve miles by bike just so Katie can have a phone that I can use to text her.

CJ’s last text of the day:  “What are boyfriends for, eh?”

What are boyfriends for?  I’ll tell you what they’re for.  They’re for treating my daughter well as CJ clearly does and perhaps becoming my son-in-law ten or so years from now!  That’s what boyfriends are for!

(If you see Katie, please don’t tell her that I said this.  It’s best that she doesn’t know that I really really really like her boyfriend!)