One of the more common questions directed at Audrey and I of late is, "how is Fenya doing up there, anyways?"
Fenya's work experience in housekeeping and dishwashing in Churchill continues apace; she has established herself as a responsible and hard worker who also tries to brighten the spirits of her coworkers when she can.
After someone in the kitchen switched out The Phantom of the Opera for Slipknot in order to maintain the needed energy levels for the remainder of a breakfast shift, the two of them fell into a discussion of bands they both enjoyed. When Nightwish, Delain and Sonata Arctica came into the discussion, she lamented that she had not been able to attend the concert with her family.
"What do you mean, your family?" the confused cook inquired.
"My family: my mom, my dad, my little sister; they all went to see those three bands at the Winspear in Edmonton."
He shook his head in disbelief, but said, "Your family is awesome!"
That kind of exchange takes a bit of the sting out of a 5 am start time, and certainly made Glory and I feel good when Fenya shared the story with us over Skype.
Being able to relate with people when the chips are down can be a very important coping measure, as Fenya has discovered over the past couple of weeks.
Long story short, a dryer caught fire at the Tundra Inn; there was no structural damage, no injuries, but lots of smoke contamination and no place to do the massive amount of laundry needed once the all-clear was given. Everything from the bedskirts and the mattress covers to the sheets, blankets and pillowcases had to be laundered, and in short order.
The one housekeeper able to drive took all the washing to a series of laundry rooms in various residences, including her own and the one Fenya is currently residing in. Once completed, she collected them all and brought them back to the hotel, so the staff could get to work getting the rooms ready for visitors again.
This has necessitated a lot of flexibility on the part of the staff, including my daughter. In order to re up more staff at the hotel she has been working triple and double dishwashing shifts, putting in close to twelve hours of gruelling work in one day.
On another day, she came over to the hotel during her break between dishwashing shifts at the pub directly across the street, and things looked grim; glum faces, audible strain in the cracking voices, someone in tears on the telephone. She went over to one of the senior staff and said, "I've got an hour; can I help with anything?"
Red eyes blinked back, then comprehended that assistance was being offered. "God, yes," they said, "Go up to two and see what Sam needs."
As she related that story, I struggled with how to tell her how proud she was making me without embarrassing her, or giving her a swelled head, but then she went one better.
The following day, she brought a goodie bag over to the hotel staff, and she told Glory and I how she picked everything.
"I couldn't buy wine because I am not legal for, like, another two weeks - it was so frustrating - because I wanted to get them a bottle of wine, but I went and got them a bunch of colas to stay caffeinated and hydrated, something that it seemed they needed, and some of those nutritious energy bars because I care about their health, and then some chocolate because I don't care that much about their health, and then some cheese to go with the wine that, I'm sorry, they were just going to have to buy themselves."
I was gobsmacked, beaming at Fenya over Skype on my iPad..
Fenya then laughed, recalling how one of the desk staff, who hadn't been there when she dropped off her care package, came into the restaurant to express her gratitude to Fenya in person, but ended up blubbering in the middle of the restaurant. But it sounds like everyone understood; after all, there are less than 700 people in the whole town.
She was tired and a little punchy, but her spirits were still tremendously high, buoyed up, I presume, from being able to help her colleagues a little during a trying time.
"Sweetie, I have to go, but one last thing before I do," I told her. "I know you give me a hard time for saying stuff like this, especially if I have a drink or two in me, but you need to know I don't drink during the week these days unless there's company, so I am stone sober when I tell you what I am going to tell you, okay?"
A little apprehensive, but nodding. "And what's that?" she asked.
"You're awesome," I replied, my face split with a grin so wide it made my cheeks hurt.
She blinked a little, and her cheeks reddened a bit, but she smiled, and nodded.
I wished her good night, and handed her off to Glory.
My heart felt full. I remember learning my way around the work world when I was close to her age, the myriad motivations of coworkers, the sometimes contradictory requests of superiors, discovering the need to subvert oneself on occasion in order to get things done. It's not like school, or volunteering, or anything else, and it will likely be the biggest part of your life for the rest of your life. The kind of job doesn't matter, but how you approach it does.
It is arguably the most important part of being an adult, and no matter how you've prepared your children, there is no way to predict what their experience will be or how they will respond.
How wonderful to discover that the child I love so much appears to be growing into the kind of young lady I would be grateful for a chance to work with!
The 4-5 weeks until she returns home feels even longer now, but there is enough happiness to offset the longing, for a little while at least.