I saw Isabel from across the field. She was wearing a flower-print gingham dress and a blue bonnet that tied under her chin. It took just a moment to recognize her. I was sitting on a bench, signaling to the world my preference that I be left alone by reading Quiet, by Susan Cain. Isabel was in a group of four girls, all dressed similarly anachronistically and they were deep in conversation.
As her group passed my bench she looked up and said “Good Day” and mid-greeting realized I wasn’t just any old tourist—I was her Dad. And it was good to see, in that moment when the realization hit, that her face lit up in a flash of a smile that lasted just a millisecond before she was back in character. She allowed herself a surreptitious wave and walked on, not even looking over her shoulder to see if I would follow.
She has been at King’s Landing Provincial Park in New Brunswick, Canada this week. Erica has been in Ithaca, working. And I have been lonely.
King’s Landing has a summer camp program they call Visiting Cousins. In a business model Tom Sawyer would be proud of, boys and girls from all over pay money to come and live the life of children in the 1830s. They dress and act the part of townspeople as tourists roam the village. The kids get a fun, unplugged week and the park gets to fill itself with “townspeople.”
That is why Isabel was in gingham and a bonnet—she was a Canadian schoolgirl from the 1830s. When I saw her it was Friday afternoon and I was there to pick her up and bring her back to New Haven for our final week of life in Connecticut. I missed her all week while she was gone and I was excited to see her again. Now that she is twelve I know that there might be some tough times coming for us. Teenage girls and their fathers don’t always get along so well and I have no reason to think we will be any different.