Turning 17 isn't quite as momentous as becoming 16, 18 or 19. It’s an odd number with not much attached to it.
In the 70s Janice Ian sang, "I learned the truth at 17 that love is meant for beauty queens."
For Phoebe's it’s not the number, it's what the year brings: senioritis, college applications, an endless series of lasts - and firsts.
Apparently being a beauty queen isn't one of Phoebe's ambitions. She turned down offers to shop on Michigan Avenue, retreat to a spa or get a makeup makeover.
Nope, that's not at all what she wanted to do on her 17th birthday.
We talked through our options: the zoo, a ride to the top of Sears Tower, a one-day getaway, an afternoon at the Art Institute.
None of these plans suited her.
It was 9:16 a.m. on her birthday and she was overruling all of my “surprise” suggestions.
All she wanted to do was go horseback riding - with me and her brothers.
Finding a stable nearby is nearly impossible. I'd tried on birthdays before.
She would not listen to my nay saying.
Ever the resourceful Internet researcher, Phoebe found a stable’s web site in a few minutes that was only - get this - 98 miles away.
Well . . . it was her birthday and the only thing she wanted to do with her family was ride horses.
But first we had to find out if we could make a reservation. We could . . . on the condition we could race from our house to the barn by noon.
Before we could leave, we had to convince the brothers this would be fun. “It will be just like Lord of the Rings!” Peter said to Warren.
That was enough of an incentive to get them to drop the PS2 controllers, grab a few DVDs for the ride and go for it.
Think really fast forward - in less than 5 minutes everyone was dressed and in the car.
On the drive over, dark clouds made us wonder if we should turn around, but we pushed on. The rain came when we exited the highway. Both boys voted to go home, while Phoebe insisted the sun would shine again within minutes.
We had nothing to lose - except our $100 deposit, so I sided with Phoebe and drove to Starved Rock Stables reasoning that the rain would cool us off on the trails.
The closer we got to the stables, the lighter the sky became. By the time we got to the driveway, the sun was the same as Phoebe’s horse’s name, Sunny.
Although the boys complained their first trail ride plodded along too slowly, [“This is NOTHING like Lord of the Rings!!!!!] I found the gentle easy ride through the pastures enchanting. A hawk, butterflies and dragonflies added to the scenery.
Because Starved Rock State Park is only a mile or so down the road, I talked the kids into going there for a closer look at the canyons.
And, Phoebe learned this truth at 17: Mother Nature is THE beauty queen.