Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
You may have notice that I haven’t posted much over the summer. You may have chalked it up to sever writers block or maybe even a hectic work schedule. The truth however, is that my fifteen year old daughter has been visiting form California.
Anyone who has a teenage daughter will tell you that the generation gap is wide and deep. It is harder when the separation is not only generational but physical too. I try to stuff a year of bonding in to a few months. It makes it harder because I now live is a town is rural Oregon with practically no other kids her age.
Emma is great. She almost never causes a problem or a fuss. Her most dramatic tendcy is to rolling her eyes, something I seem to get more and more often. I have on numerous times said that I am more a lucky parent than a good one. And with the miles between us I sometimes wonder how much affect I have on her life. Other than the affect of my absence.
It isn’t easy to bond with a fifteen girl. And Emma is very much her own person. My horror movies such as Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and John Dies at the End ,just aren’t scary enough for her. But at the same time she likes the things other girls her age, do too, such as jewelry and horse back riding.
Sitting around the house with her grandmother and much younger nephew and niece gets pretty boring, so on the days I had off from work I would try to take her out as much as finances would permit. We traveled to the exotic and interesting city of Milwaukee Oregon. First she tried not act to bored when I stopped of at The Things From Another World, to pick up a new Danger Girl graphic novel. Then we headed of to a Chinese restaurant a friend had recommended. I remember a few years ago when we lived in the same town, how we go to the Chinese Buffett and she would gleefully call if ‘Ninja Food”. I also remember how my father who passed away a while ago would smile and laugh every time she called it that.
Then we headed to the Portland Aquarium. Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from this place. After all it was a renovated stake house, there was no way it could compare to Sea World or even the Long Beach Aquarium. But what little it did it does well.
In the center of the building was it crown jewel. A large tank where you could touch the sea creatures inside, rays and sharks. Now they weren’t really sting rays. Probably some kind of skate or sun ray, and the sharks were only three foot long reef sharks. It wasn’t really dangerous, come on if one person got stung or bit they city would shut the place down. But with a mock sunken boat in the middle, the ray’s whipcord like tails, and the shark’s fearsome reputation, it had an aura of menace and doom.
Others adults and children timidly poked the surface of the water, then pulled their hands back as a shark or ray got near. Not my Emma, she thrust her hand in rubbed a ray like she was petting a family pet.
The sharks however were a bit more imitating. And rightfully so, though not very large it is hard for a human mind not to envision the shark seeing fingers as bits of fish and try to take a bite out of them. It took her a moment to grit up her courage and reach out to one. But you could tell by her face that she was not going home and say she chickened out or was intimidated by the shark. After a few minutes she reached out ran her finger across the shark’s tail fin. It shook the human’s touch off with the mild annoyance of a cat who didn’t want to be petted at that moment. Emma raided her hand out of the water with a triumphant smile.
In general she found the rays much more interesting and amendable to getting their backs rubbed than their shark counterparts, so Emma spent the rest of the time concentrating on them. In all I would say we spent over an hour at that tank alone. Afterwards we toured the enclosed tanks with eels and jellyfish. After spending about ten minutes, laboriously looking at everything in the gift shop she chose a book on mermaids, reminding me that deep down somewhere part of that little girl I watch grow up was still there.
I was impressed how she reached into the tank with no fear. Bravery has always been one of her core traits. But still she tempers it with some prudence. Unlike her brother I never had to worry that she would rush out into the street or climb a tree that was too tall for her to climb down. But she has always been stronger than her fears.
If I could give her some untenable gift, something Emma could take and make part of her. Next to love it would be courage. Most her life we have been fighting some nebulous War on Terror, leaders from both sides of the political spectrum spy on their own citizens. Unlike when I was a child there is no illusion of security. For the next generation to thrive they need to be brave, very, very brave.
It is even more extraordinary that a child of mine can be so strong. Most my life I have feared something, lost, failure, life. But seeing courage in one so young. It gives me hope, for me, for her, for all of us.