A couple of momentous events transpired in the life of our eldest daughter back in June, in fairly rapid succession. The more significant of the two was her graduation from high school.
Despite an academically trying year, Fenya did manage to graduate with honors, something neither of her parents achieved.
A fairly big deal was made of the graduation itself, as is both typical and appropriate. Oma and Opa came up from High River, Nanny, and Auntie Tara and Uncle Jerry came up from Leduc, and Auntie Vera came all the way from Ontario.
Eschewing a formal portrait session, Fenya asked her younger (we can no longer truthfully call her 'little') sister to take care of the photography.
It was an overcast day, but we made the best of it, and Glory got some very decent shots in at Const. Ezio Faraone park by the High Level bridge. I mean, obviously it helps when your subject matter is gorgeous, but still.
Tara, bless her, brought some pizza and sodas since there would be no banquet at the Jubilee Auditorium's graduation ceremony.
After eating, Fenya got into her robe and mortarboard for a couple more shots.
Then it was off to the Jube, for a very well put-together presentation, which, come on, for an arts school, this should really be a foregone conclusion, right? I thought they pulled it off with aplomb, although the clowny bits left me a bit bewildered, and they hit a great balance between fun and sentimental.
There was a dance afterwards, so we left the Corolla keys with Fenya and headed home in the Flex. We got some good visiting in with the out-of-towners, but didn't go too late, since two days later we were heading up to Churchill, and one of us would not be coming back. (Dun dun DUNN!)
This would be the other milestone mentioned earlier.
You see, graduating at 17, Fenya had always intended on taking a 'gap' year before heading off to any post-secondary studies, and had toyed with the idea of working away from home. About a year ago we started talking with my cousin's wife, Belinda, about the possibility of Fenya working at their hotel and restaurant in Churchill, and she was all for it.
The original plan would have seen her working front desk, but Fenya's graduated license meant she could not be insured to drive the shuttle to the airport and train station. Belinda reassured her there was plenty of work to be had, if she didn't mind housekeeping and dishwashing, and perhaps even a little serving experience once she turned 18 in November.
I was frank with Fenya: "Look, I know this is not what you were expecting, and that is a heck of a long way to go for that sort of work, so if you are having second thoughts, let's talk about it." After thinking about it overnight, however, she was resolute in going, and I asked why.
"You know how Plan A is for me to live at home while going to school?"
Well, if I end up going for my master's so I can go into counselling, do you realize I won't be moving out until I'm the same age you and Mum were when you got married?"
I blinked, astonished, as is so often the case, at the insight and perception she has at 17. "Have a great time in Churchill!" I told her.
And this is the manner in which we find ourselves, for a little while at least, one step closer to being empty nesters, the full effect of which is likely to be some time in coming.
And that's fine, really. Looking back over the years, I have come to realize that despite parenthood being a daunting responsibility, the burden is light.
If you are lucky, as Audrey and I have been, it is a privilege to be in the company of such a delightful young lady, and this opinion has been validated by many of the wonderful people in our lives.
Sure, she has inherited a lot of risk aversion from her mum and dad, but she is not without a taste for adventure.
And somehow, against the odds, she and her younger (at one time littler) sister have become the closest of friends.
Very few of the obligatory first day of school pictures have a solo daughter in them once Glory began following Fenya to school.
But most of my fondest memories of Fenya all involve her tremendous sense of whimsy, the brightest way in which her spirit shines.
I'll level with you: there have been times it's been hard. It's one thing knowing that she is 1300 km and three degrees of latitude away, but the empty seat here prompts all manner of surprising little reminders. Cooking a dinner for four out of habit, setting out 4 sets of pieces for Ticket to Ride, instead of just 3, not having to sort out school supplies for her for the first time in
12 13 years, that sort of thing. Thankfully the place she is staying in has wifi, so we have been able to Skype with her from time to time, which has been exceptionally helpful.
She has also started a video blog, to commemorate her time up North, and to let her friends know what she is up to up there.
We are almost halfway through our Fenya-less time, and as trying as it may be, I couldn't be happier for her. She is learning to do things on her own, gaining experience and self reliance in one of the most fascinating places in Canada. Sure, those extra-large horseflies they call 'bulldogs' can be a little intimidating...
And the threat from polar bears, while not constant, is very real...
But we know she is in good hands up there, and even when Parker and Belinda were sidelined by tragedy, it gave Fenya an opportunity to really appreciate her independence, and the sadness and concern gives way to even more pride every day.