Empire State of Mind

Well before last Christmas, my daughter, her mother and I had a quiet little discussion in my ex-wife’s kitchen. The topic was whether or not our high school freshman daughter was going to go on the big school band trip to New York.

My daughter fully expected to be going. She’s first chair, as a freshman mind you, of the flute section. Music means everything to her. All of her friends were going. She is, for all intent and purpose, a band geek.

For me, it was the first I’d heard of the trip, the destination and the most important thing, the cost. As all of this was being presented, I anticipated a situation where my ex and I would foot the bill for the trip, maybe taking half each. We are pretty good about taking care of things for her in this way and the ex and I get along famously.

Of course, that’s not at all how it went down. My kiddo’s mom said there was no way they could afford to send her. No way they could afford to pay for even half of the trip. Now, the price was steep, but not out of the realm of possibility steep. Still, I wasn’t privy to her finances and wasn’t going to be anytime soon.

And here’s where it gets dicey.

My daughter. Likely the only child I will ever have. The little girl who slept on my shoulder and held my hand and who I taught how to swim and throw a football and love books and… and… she turned to me in the hope that what she was hearing was going to be fixed by dear old Dad. There was no pleading, not even with her eyes. But I could see she was holding it all in.

I swallowed a bit and said, “We will figure it out.”

Again, there was no jumping up and down for joy. She held all of what must have been a roller coaster of emotions in check. I told her she would have to come up with the first installment, I’d help her with the second and perhaps the final installment would be a Christmas present from her grandparents.

After a few details were settled, she came up to me and said softly, “You noticed didn’t you?” I said I was very proud of her holding back her tears of both initial shock and distress and ultimate happiness. For a few years prior, she had been known to cry at school when she wasn’t sure how to react to the barbs spewing forth from middle school girls. I told her she needed to toughen up and not be so emotional. It took a few years, but her emotional maturity came with age and experience.

Right after Christmas, she had earned enough to secure her seat for the trip. What made me proud was after she was going for sure, she in turn started helping her friends sell candy bars and other assorted goods to help them make the trip or to give them a little extra spending money. She did that all on her own.

Last Tuesday she boarded a bus bound for New York and throughout her trip she’d text me questions or tell me what she was doing.

Her first text was about her great grandmother who came to America from Italy as a little girl. She wanted to know her maiden name. I sent her the answer and asked why. She told me she was at Ellis Island and was trying to look her name up. I told her I knew for a fact her great grandma did go through Ellis Island because she had told me herself.

She proceeded to text me everyday such gems as how she only got 2 hours of sleep on her 18 hour bus ride, took pictures of animal shaped cupcakes, bought herself a Yankees cap (hey, she’s in New York…), drove past the Empire State Building, searched for boading balls in Chinatown and her utter disappointment in not finding shrimp alfredo on the menu in Little Italy. Her last text was “I love the Phantom of Opera.”

I can’t wait to hear all her stories and see her pictures from the trip. I know it’s one she will never forget.