I'm leaving in a few hours to drive to New Orleans to fetch Dear Daughter home. She's been in the Crescent City for the past two weeks, visiting my sister, bonding with my dog-niece and dog-nephew (Zadie and Eli) and Siwon the Giant Orange Cat, going to art camp at New Orleans GlassWorks Studio, and basically perfecting the art of cool, as practiced by a 'tweenager. We've had some interesting phone calls, at all times of day, and some text and photo messages of NOLA-area restaurant menus. The latter were to tauntingly remind me that she was down there eating her fill of seafood and local favorites such as Crabby Jack's po-boys, while I was stuck here binge-eating chocolate-covered pecans and instant Thai peanut noodles.
We discovered art camp for DD last summer, in the wake of my dad's death. The entire year of his illness and on-and-off hospitalization, followed by his sudden-but-not-unexpected collapse and death had left us all rattled, but especially made a profound mark on her. She needed to get out of town and stay busy, and New Orleans was the perfect destination. My sister has lived there since 1978, so we've visited a lot, both pre- and post-Katrina. It's almost like a second home.
I had read the brochure on GlassWorks when I signed her up, but I really wasn't prepared for the depth and extent of what she would be doing. I read "building a kaleidoscope from a pre-fab kit and then making a metal stand" to be something like "gluing some pieces together." I was totally unprepared for Lena the Warrior Bunny (photo to come).
When I picked her up, my anxious and grieving girl had been transformed into a confident, paint-spattered and solder-scorched artist, who immediately begged for a welding machine to be installed in our garage.
Just having a baby should prepare you for the miraculous, but even 11 years later, Dear Daughter never ceases to amaze me. Often it seems like she will never cease to drive me up the wall, but that's to be expected when you have two redheads living in close proximity.
This is the longest time we've ever been separated in her life. We've both done pretty well, but I have to admit, I'm at my best when we're under the same roof. She brings out good things in me, and makes me want to be a better person, even in those moments when I'm failing most miserably at that goal.