One week ago I made a series of promises to my oldest daughter. Four solemn vows to which I would hold myself accountable over the course of seven days. Words sworn in exchange for the bravery exuded in her willingness and desire to spend a week away from home at overnight camp; a week surely to come with new adventures, friends, experiences and triumphs. In recognizing that she would be facing these new experiences, she brought the topic up at the dinner table on the eve of her departure and challenged each of her supporting family members to take on some experiences of their own. Around the table we went, each person providing another with a unique task to achieve before Nora returned from her time away at what would undeniably be a life-shaping and memorable week, steeped in all things ‘new’.
Inspired and proud of what she, herself, had set out as a goal this summer, we were all quick to oblige, and so here then are the tasks and challenges delivered to me my family, along with the proof that I made good on my word.
Promise number one – Origami
Technically she didn’t say ‘origami’, the literal words were: ‘fold paper’ and I took the creative liberty of interpreting that as origami. I have folded the odd crane or two in my day, and have certainly put in my fair share of hours in elementary school to creating cootie catchers, but beyond the basics, I know nothing about the art or craftsmanship involved in manipulating delicate sheets of paper into something beautiful. That said, I gave it my best:
Promise number two – New Food
This one was perhaps the most exciting and anticipated for me, particularly given that finding ‘new food’ for my pallet, especially around these parts, is not easily come by, yet is a challenge I purposely throw down for myself on a regular basis. As I thought this through with great debate (do I take a familiar protein, produce or starch and create a new dish, or do I seek out ingredients complete unknown and start from scratch?) my dilemma weighed heavy, so I figured I would let a venture into the local butcher for some inspiration do my decision making for me. Sadly, however, there was nothing new or inspired, so I left in a bit of a slump and ventured on to the next shop, then the next, and the next…at every turn: nothing.
Throughout the week I travelled through no less than 10 different markets, and not once did I come across something completely new to me, and not once was I struck with an ‘Aha!’ moment. I had hit the culinary equivalent of a writer’s block, seemingly brought on by overwhelming emotions that I didn’t fully know I’d have surrounding missing my daughter and constantly thinking about the adventures she must be on at that moment. Then, finally, it dawned on me; and although you could claim that I cheated on this one because it happened after she came home, taking my daughter, fresh-home from a week at camp, out to test ice cream flavours neither of us have had before, 100% counts in my book.
Promise number Three – Kayaking
Nora – first and foremost: thank you. For 9-years we have lived in Elora; for at least 3 of those years we’ve had access to a kayak, and yet not once have I ventured out to the most local of watering holes to set in and paddle about on my own for any stretch of time. Setting out from the shores of Bissel park, the peaceful, quiet, serene and meditative float up the river was perhaps the most I have slowed down in, well, as long as I can remember. With nothing to do but appreciate my surroundings, this little solo excursion is quickly going to find its way into my rotation of personal past times. Life slows down on the river, and it was something desperately needed in so many ways. There’s not much else to say on this one – ventures of this sort are almost better kept to an internal dialogue, as if the moments, sounds, and experiences of that ride were crafted by this world for me and me alone. So, once again: thank you.
Promise number Four – Lego
You may think this would be an easy one for me to achieve, given my penchant for creating art from little plastic components. Depending on who you choose to ask, some may say I have a bit of an ‘issue’ with my Lego spending habits; I have been working on this and continue exercise refrain from things like Prime Day, when prices drop 15-25%…deep breath, Phil, deep breath…
And yet, like some blessing handed down by the heavens, or whatever powers that be, here I’ve been granted carte blanche, a blank cheque, a request, nay: a obligation, handed to me by my own loving daughter, that I pursue this passion and dive into my indulgences head first and without reprimand. Oh what endless opportunity has been bestowed upon me! Do I buy the new PacMan set? Splurge on the 9,000 piece Titanic that just came back in stock?! Or do I scoop up a bunch of smaller sets and build a village in my basement?
The possibilities are without limit; what a glorious day this is!
The truth of the matter is, however, Lego is something I actually reserve as precious time spent with Nora, tackling our sets one bag or page at a time, spreading them out over the course of weeks or months and then putting our accomplishments on display with pride. They aren’t just Lego kits, they are a representation of time that I spent with my daughter as we carried out small conversations about our day; it’s a physical manifestation of a memory that I get to hang on my wall, place on a shelf, or witness her interact and pay with. When people enter our home and say “Cool Lego set!” I get to tell them that I built it with my daughter, that’s the part that means the most to me.
So, contrary to what you might think, building something without her by my side was not an easy task and was something I struggled with in ways I wasn’t prepared for; my internal dialogue spiralling all the way to “my little girl is out of the house. She doesn’t need me anymore, these precious moments are fleeting and there will be a day not long from now when she won’t want to spend this time with her Dad.” I jumped very quickly ahead to the university/college/travelling years, when she could be anywhere in the world, not just twenty minutes away at an overnight camp, and I fumbled to snap even two pieces together.
Still, a promise is a promise, and I feel this act was my daughter’s way of challenging me in the ways that I need to be the most brave. I did what was asked and I put together the only thing that was on my mind. Remember forever that every single piece of me loves you more than anything.
Thank you, Nora, for these tasks you passed around served not only as opportunities for distraction in my week, but also as opportunities for growth. I am proud of what you did, and while I am over the moon that you are back home in my arms, I am so excited for you to continue on to your next adventures in life. This world was made to explore and you were made for this world.