Sunday, August 12, 2007

Notes from the road

Mexican Bird-of-Paradise. My aunt and uncle have several of these in near-full bloom at their ranch south of San Antonio. Photo originally from here.

Even though I returned from Mobile early Wednesday morning, it still doesn't quite feel as though I'm back. I spent the past weekend with the Mrs. up in Topeka; faculty workshops and meetings for the fall begin tomorrow; and sometime this week the Mrs. and I will begin moving into our newer, bigger apartment (though still in the same complex, so the "Stretch of River" posts will continue for another year at least). So, before the bloom falls completely off my trip with my daughters, I thought I'd better post a little something about it.

Below the fold, to spare the disinterested:

Before the girls arrived, I did a little research at the U. of Texas and toured U.T.'s new-to-me Blanton Museum of Art. I'll have more to say about the Blanton in a future post, but--especially if your thing is Italian Baroque painting or contemporary Latin American art--y'all need to know about that place.

The girls had been making the national tour of Texas for the previous couple of weeks before they met me at my mother's house in Austin Wednesday before last: first to Dallas to see their mother's brother and his wife; thence to El Paso to see their mother's parents; a return to Dallas; and finally to Austin. We first went to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on their IMAX, with the big climax in 3-D. Not the best of the Potter films, but it did look grand. The next day, we went to my aunt and uncle's small cattle ranch just east of Devine, Texas. Uncle John's cattle were fat and sassy, reveling in belly-high bermuda grass where, just last year, there had been none--they've already had almost twice as much rain there this year (29") as they do in a typical year. Good to see.

On Friday we were off to Houston to stay with my father's brother for a couple of days. He'd not seen the girls in some years, so I was curious to watch them through the eyes of someone who was basically unfamiliar with them. They all got along famously. It was in Houston that I began to feel a pleasant sort of distance from them; they seemed a bit less my daughters and a bit more their own selves, if that makes sense. I had felt that same distance a couple of visits ago, but it was more disconcerting then: "My babies are growing up!" The old time-is-slipping-away feeling. But not this time, or in a different, more positive way. As the Mrs. reminds me, the High School Years loom yet, but my sense (knock on wood-product) is that they won't cause their mother and me undue legal or social embarrassment. The big adventure in Houston was our Saturday trip to the zoo and the natural history museum. The girls learned that our family has deep roots in Austin, my forebears being there almost from the beginning and quite prominent for the remainder of the 19th century. They were especially pleased to learn that my 5-greats grandfather opened the first ice-cream parlor in the city but seemed less impressed to learn that my ancestors put the roof on the first state capitol building. Priorities. Still, though, C. caught the overall spirit: "I didn't know we were famous!"

Then came Sunday and the trip from Houston to Mobile. It was on this leg that I felt something different, a little twinge of hurt that was a signal to me that my girls were older now. For many years, it had been our tradition, while crossing the Atchafalaya River Basin on I-10, to roll down our windows and yell "Ca-JONS!!" (as last reported here). This time, though, as I did it, G. said, in a tone of embarrassment mixed with reprimand, "Daddy!" So: I fear that this year will be the last calling of the Cajuns for us.

On the other hand, this growing-older bit might not be such a bad thing in other ways: When we stopped for lunch at Mulate's in Breaux Bridge (just east of Lafayette, and well worth the trip off the interstate for lovers of Cajun cooking), C. made sure we knew she was very conscientiously choosing from among the less-expensive items on the menu.

This past Monday was our trip to Dauphin Island, as reported in my previous post. But something I didn't report in that post was that both G. and C. were looking for bivalves with their halves still attached. They separated a couple of them and gave me one of the halves, keeping the other halves for themselves. They were also picking out shells for the Mrs. and kind enough to pick out some of the jumping beans they had bought in El Paso for me to give to her, too.

The previous couple of trips to see my daughters had been hard ones emotionally for me, but this one was different. They are older, they're maturing, and I found myself enjoying those facts instead of being unnerved by them. So, perhaps I'm growing up a little, too.


Winston said...

I know that feeling well. You had a sort of epiphany, wherein your relationship with your children has reached a new level. I went through almost exactly the same experience with my son and daughter a few years ago, on that same but ever-changing Gulf Coast. While the notion of them maturing into fully functioning little adults, with minds of their own, is in itself rewarding, there will be melancholy moments of regret over the loss of their immature innocence. And that toothpaste can never be put back into the tube...

John B. said...

Yup. More milestone events await me, I know, that will cause me to be more melancholic than I am at present. But their sharing the shell halves with me I took as a sign that they feel a link to me and that that won't change even as they grow older. That's the "takeaway" from my time with them.