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I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.

I am lonely for my daughter.

I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion.  I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal.  And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.

I have always been the one in the family who worked.  My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way.  I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.

Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still  have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.

But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.

Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.

Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.

The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.

I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.

I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.

I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

My abstract conversation with Kelsea this morning:

Me: Awww, Andy Rooney died!

Kelsea: Oh, that’s terrible! Really? I’m so sad!

Me: I know, but he was like 92, so it does happen.

Kelsea: But didn’t he just go somewhere or do something?

Me: Maybe. Probably. But not that I know of.

Kelsea: I loved him in those old movies.

Me: What old movies? He wasn’t in old movies.

Kelsea: He wasn’t?

Me: No, he was on 60 Minutes. He always did the commentaries at the end.

Kelsea: Oh, he was the really old guy who sat in his chair and talked about how bad everything was?

Me: Yes, that’s him.

Kelsea: I loved him. Wasn’t he also in some old movies? No, wasn’t he Matlock?

Me: No, that was Andy Griffith.

Kelsea: Oh. Are you sure he wasn’t in old movies?

Me: Yes, pretty sure.

Kelsea: But wasn’t he the one in the movies who was always smiling and trying to take three girls to the dance? Wasn’t that Andy Rooney?

Me: No, that was Mickey Rooney playing Andy Hardy.

Kelsea: What? Oh.  I’m so confused. (Pause). I need some pants.

RIP, Andy. We did love you. And we really do know who you are.

Last week at our writer’s meeting at work, my boss asked me what else was happening in my life – we always end our writer’s meetings that way, since the writers actually interact very little during the week.

I told the team that Kelsea was starting high school on Monday.  And they all said, “Awwwww, are you okay???”

I thought that was a perfectly bizarre reaction.  Am I okay?  Of course I am okay.  Why would I NOT be okay?  It’s not as if I’M starting high school (again… if I were, then I probably would not be okay).

When I started high school, back in the age before cell phones, computers, electricity, fire, etc., it wasn’t that big a deal for me. I went to a small school, and was with the same people I’d been in school with since kindergarten.  The most significant thing was that I finally got to change campuses.

It’s different for Kelsea.  She’s been to a K-8 school, so there was a certain similarity, in that she had been with a lot of the same kids for a long time, and in the same building all of those years.  And she was absolutely sick of it.  It’s been great how excited she’s been about starting high school.  She’s always wanted to go to this school, ever since her older cousins went there.

Of course, she had a day or two of anxiety when she found out that she didn’t know a soul in any of her classes – and she had really been looking forward to going to class with her friends.  But that has ebbed. She’ll still see her friends.  Even though she’s a bit shy, she’ll make new friends.  She seems to do that quite well – much better than she gives herself credit for. And I heard something today that I’d never heard from her before: her talking to her friends about what they were going to wear tomorrow.

This weekend, we went clothes shopping for her – new jeans and T-shirts (almost all from thrift shops, where things are stylish, unique, and inexpensive.)  We had a great time together.  I love it when she wants new clothes, because it so seldom happens.  And we found the absolute BEST thing of all: a pair of teal green genuine Converse high-tops (that fit both of us) for $5!

Our new shoes

We were so excited.  She’s wearing them now, as she’s wandering around for a last hurrah with Uber-Cool Will. I believe they are off to the mall to buy glow-in-the-dark shoelaces and a mustache belt (don’t ask – I’m not sure.)

Her schedule is such that it will be tough for her to stay with me at all during the week.  We may work it out – we’ll just have to see.  Which means I’ll miss her.  And I’ll (finally) really be here at the Bungalow alone (except for the cat who isn’t really mine).

Sat cat sitting

I don’t know if it’s that realization that’s got me a little verklempt, or if it is as my co-workers inquired, that I am suddenly “not okay” – that I am undergoing a realization that my little girl is really growing up, that she will always be my little girl, but that we’ve only got four years worth of weekends and summers together until she’s off on her own.  I suspect there’s a bit of that playing into my feelings.

These days, though, I am not borrowing trouble.  I am so happy that she’s happy, excited, and who she is.  My feelings are about me letting go and moving on, which is the story of my life these last few years.  Maybe it’s the story of all of our lives from the day we leave the womb.  I don’t really know.

I know I feel pretty lucky to be sitting on my own front porch, writing, fending off mosquitoes, listening to my wind chimes, a glass of wine at hand. It’s a far cry from where I thought I’d be now, if I ever even thought this far into my own future, when I started high school.  Or at this time last year, for that matter. “God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”  Truly, I never saw this.

The View From My Front Porch

What I do know with an absolute certainty is that I am blessed to have such a cool human being as my daughter in my life.

Kelsea and Blossom

Kelsea (and Uber-Cool Will) graduated from eighth grade last week. 

This was a big deal, much bigger than I had thought. 

There was no graduation from eighth grade for me.  Not that I didn’t, mind you, just that they didn’t celebrate such things.  I was in a Pre-K through 12 school, so for us, it was just the end of another year.  The big difference was that we moved to the Upper School campus in 9th grade, but otherwise? Meh.

So I was approaching Kelsea’s end of eighth grade as I had approached my own – just the gateway to another summer.  I had no idea how wrong I was.  I’m still unsure if it’s a big deal because she’s going to a different school – high school – or if it’s a big deal because times have changed and we now feel the need to make a big deal out of everything that our kids do as a part of being human and semi-adult, from coming in last in a competition to helping a duck across the street.

But a big deal it was, and I was proud to be a part of it.  All the girls in her class dressed up.  As you’ve probably been able to tell from my talking about Kelsea, she’s about as far from a girly-girl as Abe Lincoln is from Diana Ross.  So when she told me she wanted to wear a dress for graduation, I thought she was kidding.  She wasn’t.  And she didn’t just wear a nice short-skirted party dress like every other eighth-grade girl.  If she was going to wear a dress, she said, she wanted to do it her own way and make a statement.  Thankfully the statement wasn’t this:

or this:

No, she wanted to express her own sense of style.  So she wore a floor length dress, and her long hair down, and she looked gorgeous.  And she only tripped on it once on her two trips up to the platform (that would be her dress, not her hair).

The continuation ceremony was looong – almost two hours.  There were the requisite number of inspirational speeches about “what school has meant to me” and “taking the next step into the journey towards adulthood”.  One excellent student speaker told an embarrassing story about her mom from when she was in high school.  I surely hope she discussed this with her mom beforehand, otherwise the poor woman no doubt wished she could sink into the floor.

One of the 90 students in Kelsea’s graduating class had succumbed to cancer shortly after the beginning of the year.  The staff acknowledged her and her parents who were in the audience, and that brought tears to my eyes.  They acknowledged all the veterans among the parents, which I thought was a nice touch.  And at diploma time, when the principal said to hold applause until each row had received their sheepskin (or cardboard, as sheep are scarce these days), we were a poor audience and refused to do so, but came to an unspoken compromise by making a coordinated single clap for each student, with a more robust chatter of applause after each row.  I thought it was hysterical, but I would get distracted, and clap off beat, which was rather awkward.

Kelsea had straight As, so she was on the President’s Honor Roll, which included a certificate signed by Barak Obama.  She and I both wanted to wet the ink to see if it was a genuine signature, but we resisted.  My niece, who works in the governor’s office, also gave her a personal letter from the Governor, congratulating her on her achievements – that one really was a genuine signature.

And as for Kelsea, she is so relieved to be out of middle school that she said she almost wishes summer was over – she’s that eager to start high school.  I hope it lives up to her expectations.  She used to love school (in elementary school) and she just loathed middle school, even though she did well.  But for now, she just wants to sleep as late as she feels like sleeping.  I, for one, will let her do so – though I may be the only one who will let her do so.

I am so proud of my lovely girl.  Watching her cross the stage with poise and joyfulness was a wonderful experience.

So I guess it is a big deal after all.

As you know, I love my daughter to  infinity and back again an infinite number of times.  We never fight.  We just don’t.  We have what I consider an unusual relationship for a teenage daughter and her mother.

Given that, I’m not accustomed to getting angry with her.  I do know that happens.  And I am committed to my role as a mother, in which I teach my daughter self-discipline, self-worth, self-respect and how her choices impact herself and others.  I’ve tried to do this all along, and feel I (and Pat) have done a good job.  She’s a lovely, considerate, thoughtful person.

Today, we’re going to the auction, and taking Uber-Cool Will with us.  I’ve been looking forward to it since the last auction, and I know Kelsea has too.  We scoped out the goods yesterday, and have our eye on a 70-year old upright icebox that Kelsea can use as a dresser, since she doesn’t want an ordinary one.

We had dinner at my niece’s last night, got home about 10:00 and to bed about 11:00.  She was going to Skype with Will for a little while – they talk constantly.  I was fine with that.  I understand that she’s a night person, and I understand the teenagers have different circadian rhythms.

I woke to the sound of her voice, so I went to check on her.  She will still Skyping with Will.  When I asked her what time it was, she said, “Not too late….only about….3:40.”  3:40?????  I told her to sign off immediately.  Five minutes later, I could hear that she was still on.  And I got mad.

I went in and turned on her light and told her to shut it down that minute.  She’s not accustomed to me getting mad, so I guess she knew I meant business, because she did.  And then I chewed her out. 

She had struck a nerve, and I recognized that.  As I was laying in bed, listening to her still being up, I felt exactly the same way as I used to feel when I was married.  Pat always did this same thing.  We would have plans to do something special and he would stay up (or in his case, out) until the wee small hours and then be sluggish, hungover and too tired to be a happy participant in whatever our special plans were.  I could feel the slow boil inside of me as I was laying there, something I had never thought I would feel again.

So when I began the chewing-out, I began by telling her that I knew there was a certain part of projection occurring on my part, because of this memory.  However, I told her it was inconsiderate of her to stay up so long that she would be too tired and grumpy to share in our day tomorrow, and I was disappointed – which is one of the worst things I can ever say to her.  She tried to interject with a couple of “Buts”, “but” I told her I really didn’t want to hear them.  I told her I was understanding of her rhythms and feelings, “but” that this kind of behavior wasn’t taking care of herself and wasn’t respectful of others when she had plans with those others (a.k.a., me). 

I pointed out to her that I was using “I” statements, like her school counselors have coached all the kids. I didn’t raise my voice.  I didn’t tell her that her behavior was wrong.  I just told her how her choices are impacting me and my feelings, and how they will likely impact her.  And that this is an area where she needs some self-discipline.

We had been talking about this sort of thing on the way home earlier in the day, about how she tends to live exclusively in the present, with a “cross that bridge when we come to it” attitude.  I generally support that attitude, however, I told her, she must learn to have a broader vision, incorporating the lessons learned from her past experiences and her insight into how the present can alter the future, for good – or bad.  I reinforced that message at 4:00 am, when she reminded me of that conversation.   But other than that, she was silent – as she should have been.

I turned off the light and went back to bed, still slightly fuming, now moreso at the thought that on this, my one night to sleep in, I was now awake at 4:00 am.  One of the things I realized, as I lay there in the dark, was that I want to spend my time with people who take care of themselves, as that’s a sign of valuing oneself.  And I want to take care of myself, as that’s a sign that I value myself.  And I want Kelsea to learn, understand and know that lesson in her heart of hearts.

I did get back to sleep for another few hours.  It’s now 9:30.  She’s got another hour or so to sleep.  I’m not mad any more.  But I am curious as to what she’ll say when she gets up.

I know I’m right.  I know she knows I’m right.  It’s just interesting getting mad at her.

Cautious Experimentation

Kelsea got home late-ish last night and had left something in the truck. 

“Will you go get it for me, Mom?”
“No, why? Are you scared?”
“No, but there was something in the yard when I came in.  I couldn’t tell if it was a deer or a coyote.”
“They’re not exactly the same size, you know.”
“Whatever it was, it was scary.  I don’t want to go. Because I’m lazy.”
“Well, then I guess it will wait until morning.”

<Pause>

“Can I take my sword?”
“Yes.”
“REALLY?”
“Of course.”
“What if I get arrested for carrying a sword?”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Just don’t…poke anything with it.”
“Okay.”

Armed with flashlight and sword, she starts out into the night.
And is back in five seconds.

“There are like three deer out there, just sitting in the yard, looking at me.  Come see.”

Curiosity gets the best of me and I come out in pink fuzzy crocs and fuzzy heart-embellished white pajamas.

She shines the flashlight into the depths of the inky blackness.
There they are, just sitting.
The beam of the flashlight catches their eyes, which proceed to glow demoniacally.

“Cool.  Do you want me to come with you to the truck?”
(After all, I’m already out here.)
“No, I’m fine.”

I head back inside.

She returns in short order, panting slightly.

“Oh my god, that was the scariest thing ever.”
“What?”
“You know that YouTube video of the Ninja Cat?”
(We while away a little time from time to time exploring humorous videos on You Tube.)

“Yes.”
“Well, I was coming back from the truck, and one of the deer got up and started coming towards me. I watched him in the light, you know, and he stopped.  So I went a little towards the house and when I turned the light back, he was closer to me, you know, like he was closing the distance between us.  So I kept going, and he did it again.  And then he did it again.  He was close enough that I could have…SPIT on him.  It was terrifying!

And she cuddled up and fell asleep on the couch next to me.

And so ends the tale of the Exploits of the Great Deerstalker.  Or perhaps the Exploits of the Great Kelsea-Stalker.

When I was in junior high (or middle school, as we called it), “they” built a mall about three miles from my school.  At that time, school was at the very edge of any commercial development – I think the closest sizeable business, aside from home-based little photo studios and woodworkers, was a grocery store. I believe it was a Piggly Wiggly. 

And of course, there was the 7-11 that was just on the other side of the school property line – you could sneak down the hill through the woods to get an Icee or Pixie Stix or Nik-L-Nips if you were brave enough to risk getting caught.

But suddenly, almost within our grasp, was South Square Mall.   Almost heaven.

My friends and I used to beg whatever parent was available to take us there after school and let us hang out.  And hang out we did.  We would shop idly – maybe buy a scarf, a record, an Orange Julius.  We would mill around the food court with its orange formica tables.  We would check out boys.  We would yell at each other from different levels of the mall.  We would play on the escalators.  We would shriek and whisper and laugh and wonder what schools other kids went to – other kids who were doing the exact same thing.

An abandoned adolescent memory - South Square Mall shortly before demolition in 2001.

Ah, the mall.  It provided a sense of adulthood and freedom.  Except for one instance, when I found myself trapped in the seatbelt of my best friend’s father’s pale blue Cadillac convertible.  It was one of those lap belts and it was completely jammed and I was completely trapped.  Fortunately, I was also completely skinny and after about 15 minutes of struggle, which included shedding my jeans, bruising my hiplets and sucking my stomach in so that it was flush with my spine, I was able to slide out from the top.  I amazed even myself.  I felt like a teenage female Houdini.

Fast forward 32 years.  Fly west 1700 miles west.  Turn my brown hair blonde and my green eyes blue.  And you have Kelsea, hanging out at Flatirons Crossing Mall with her friends.  Guess what they do?  They loaf around the food court, only this one has a fireplace.  They buy little things like smelly rubber balls.  They sample the goods at the Apple store.  They play on the escalators.  They shriek and whisper.  They follow people around.  They scope out cute guys.  They speculate on the identity of other students.  Hmmm….sounds so very, wistfully familiar.

Kelsea said, in the course of a conversation the other day, “Everyone gets thrown out of the mall once, right?”  It was a rhetorical question, and one she immediately regretted.  My response?  I looked at her.  And decided it was one of those follow-up questions best left unasked.  She needs to have some things to tell me later.

I do believe that one more torch has been passed.

5:30 a.m. is a ridiculous time of day.  I reset the phone alarm until 6:00 a.m. after it went off the first time.  After that extra half hour, I was able to pull myself out of bed, shake Kelsea to wake her, and stumble into the shower.  By the time I was clean, Kelsea was up and even fairly cheerful.  We were ready to head for the launch of the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo. 

Last year, I had parked at a public lot and taken a shuttle bus to the launch area.  It was free, and it worked out fine.  Coming back from the launch area, however, I had to stand in line for 25 minutes to catch the shuttle.  Standing in line is not my favorite thing.  This year, I couldn’t recall exactly where the parking area was, and I overshot the launch site (where you can’t park anyway).  But right next door to the launch site, was a private parking lot charging $5 a car.  It was soooo worth it.  Just a quick walk up a gravel road and we were right in the midst of things.

Ground fog was nestled in between the rolls of the hills, and overlaying the surface of the small lake, giving the morning a moorish feeling, like something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles.  The baying of a dog missing his owner from the front seat of a clearly lived-in pickup truck added to the atmosphere.  Above us, the sky was a bright clear blue – windless mornings are perfect for the launch – we had a winner. 

I pulled out my big-gun camera, the Canon 40D that I have come to love.  Last year, I photographed the event with my small (but excellent) digital point-and-shoot, which I had charged up and brought along as back-up, but I was excited to use the new Canon.  It felt strange somehow as I took it out of the bag.  I turned it on. Nothing happened  With a sinking feeling, I realized that the battery that I’d taken out to charge was indeed fully charged – and sitting in the charger that was plugged in back in the hotel room.  Facepalm.

The good news is that I could use my little digital back-up, and the better news is that there’s tomorrow morning to take the big-gun to shoot the launch.  The bad news is that the little digital was to serve as Kelsea’s back-up if her camera ran out of battery (since she didn’t bring her charger).  It ran out of battery about 2/3 of the way through the launch, so we shared a little.

Only one balloon had launched when we arrived, and it was already far away over the lake and adjacent fields.  What looked like giant tarps were laid out on the ground in a checkerboard pattern; the small plane flying overhead must have seen a patchwork quilt on the green landscape.  As we stood between two of the squares, both starting billowing, waffling, inflating more and more as the air was loudly pumped into the hollows of silk.  It seemed as if we’d be squished between the two as they started to rise off the ground.  Balloon pilots negotiated their way, one foot at a time into the wicker gondolas with perfect timing, not weighting the basket down prematurely, but manning it before it left the ground.

The balloons took off right above out heads.  One was shaky on takeoff, and barely missed the heads of the crowd and the top of the four-foot tall barrier to the lake.  I hit trees and shrubberies on the other side of the water, but eventually made it aloft.

Others lowered themselves to the lake for the Rodeo’s drop-and-drag competition.  The bottom of the gondola is to the touch the surface of the water and skim as far as it can before rising again.  Most who attempt the maneuver succeeded, though a few overshot and touched down in the weeds at the water’s edge.  Those who made it rose dripping into the morning sun, with the cheers and woots of the crowd ringing in the blue sky.  One balloonist, though scorched the silk of his ship as he controlled his flame, struggling out of the water.

The balloons are a colorful marvel – rainbow-chevrons, golden orbs, one with circus animals, the Remax logo, an unusual one that was triangular-shaped.  I think if you can imagine it, it can become a balloon.  I have a feeling that I may finally make it to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival this year, at the end of the summer, my summer of starting over.

The landscape was covered in color now, balloons inflating behind us, balloons dotting the sky before us.  It was just warm enough, the crowd was happy and not too thick, and the sideshow of young men in wet suits, skiing down a wooden slope and cartwheeling (or bellyflopping) into the lake provided additional entertainment.  A little old lady in a red jacket was constantly shooing people out of the apparently forbidden grassy area between the balloon launch field and the waterski jumpers – we dubbed her the Crowd Nazi, but we could tell she was none too happy with her job.  Soon a slightly chubby, very cheerful tween boy started doing the job for her – I think he started out mimicking her, but it made her smile and made him feel in charge, so he picked up the torch, and had more humor about him as he did so, his young voice urgent, laughing and faux-panicked as he told people to get back.

All but one of the balloons had launched when we decided to head out.  We stopped at the souvenir stand and picked up a tank top for me and a hat pin for Kelsea.  As we head back into town to find breakfast, we saw the balloons nestled in the trees on the side of the ski mountain, and peeking out over the rooftops in the Old Town, having found a space to land, now waiting for their chase vehicles.

Breakfast on a weekend morning in Steamboat is always a bit of a tough call.  There are three really good breakfast joints in town:  Freshies, Winona’s and the The Shack.  With long lines at all three, and we agreed that no breakfast is worth waiting an hour for (we did that once in Portland, Oregon), so we dropped into Johnny B. Good’s, a cool little diner with classic car and movie memorabilia covering the walls.  Drinks came promptly – a chocolate shake, a cup of good coffee, and waters, but our waitress was slow to take our order.  The food when it came was excellent – my bacon-avocado-cheese omelette was stuffed with the good stuff – not just two strips of bacon, a few slivers of avocado and enough eggs to choke a goat, but a plump, properly egg-proportioned delectable dish.

Kelsea had the early-bird special, all the while wishing she wasn’t early enough for it.  She downed the eggs and one strip of bacon, and was done.  She’s less of a morning person than I am, so after settling up and taking a short pass through the tin-roofed houses of old town, we returned to the Rabbit Ears, where she laid down on her bed and was asleep in less than 30 seconds.  I’m granting her a reprieve from go-go-going for a while so she can get her ya-yas back.  Then we’re off to find her swimwear, visit the art fair, and head into the hills to Strawberry Hot Springs for a soak.  And the rodeo is tonight – yee ha!

To be continued…

As a trial run for our upcoming Excellent Adventure Roadtrip (EAR), Kelsea and I took off for Steamboat Springs this weekend.  Today’s driving was 1/3 of the maximum distance that we’d drive in one day on the EAR.  All went smoothly – our new Garmin, a.k.a. Daniel, was on his first trial run as well.  We like him – he has an English accent, and we found ourselves getting a little insecure when he hadn’t spoken for a while.  (It helped that I knew where I was going.)

This is one of my favorite drives after you get off 1-70 and head northwest paralleling the Blue River.  Traffic moved well the entire way.  We stopped and took pictures in a few places and were inundated by mosquitoes at one point, hastily retreating to the car, but still having to kill them inside against our arms and the newly washed windows.  The hills and fields were emerald green and horse-studded, reminiscent of the Alps in image if not aura.  The highway rolled before us in macadam waves, snaking into the notches between the hills, a temptation to which we could most fortunately succumb.  The air was clean.  It smelled of rain, rain that became reality from time to time, dripping, spitting, sprinkling, dowsing, slowing, stopping.  Coming off a wonderful birthday, I had a smile of freedom and joy on my face.  I do love to go places.

We moved up into the mountains surrounding Steamboat, over Rabbit Ears Pass and into the sanctuary of the Routt Valley.  Condos and million-dollar homes are built up to the Steamboat Spring Ski Resort, providing a deceptive first-look at what, less than 20 years ago, was a bona fide mountain-man town.  As the road shoots straight into downtown Steamboat, development relaxes, and we are greeted by our destination, the Rabbit Ears Motel, an icon of the town’s lodging options. Family-owned, complete with neon rabbit sign, I’ve always had a hankering to stay here.  It’s right on the main drag (Lincoln Avenue), making it easy to walk to almost anything except tomorrow’s Hot Air Balloon Rodeo and Strawberry Hot Springs.  (Last year’s lodging, the Mariposa Lodge, was a nice B&B on the opposite edge of town, past the old neighborhood.  It was still within walking distance, but a pretty good walk away from the main drag.  It’s biggest drawback was the distance, and the fact that the walls were too thin.)

Deb, who was working the front desk was harried, having had a busy day – the No Vacancy sign beneath the neon bunny backed up her statement.  I’m glad I reserved in advance, as every motel we passed had a similar message for the spontaneous traveller.  She said we’ve been upgraded from “a really small room” (where we’d planned to share a bed) to a double queen.  Yippee!  We each have our own bed!

Kelsea is tired from a long day at Elitches yesterday, and the usual teenager’s lack of sleep.  She’s made best efforts to sleep in the car, to no avail. (Note to self: bring pillows on the EAR.)  She rallies, though after we’re checked in and unloaded, and we take a walk along the Yampa River path.  Some dudes are floating down the river on air mattresses.  It looks fun – neither of us being strong swimmers, we doubt the wisdom of that action.  They’re warming up for the Friday night rodeo in the arena, but we’re saving that for tomorrow night.  Right now, I’m hungry.  Kelsea is satiated from a Good Times Double Cheeseburger we picked up Dillon, so she’s still full, but I haven’t eaten since breakfast.

We wander in and out of stores.  Kelsea sits down with the sculpture of Abe Lincoln.  We debate where I should dine.  Finally, we settle on the Old Town Pub, where I’ve had pleasant meals every time I’ve been to town.  I have a buffalo burger, she has fries, we watch the Tour de France, and talk about everything – and we laugh.  A lot.  She has Dr. Pepper; I have a margarita – they have the same impact on us, respectively.

It’s a quick walk home, and we tuck up for the night.  I discover I’ve forgotten my glasses so the TV is entirely at her disposal, since I can’t see what’s on anyway.  I try a blog entry documenting our days journey. I think I need to refine my style, make sure it’s fluid and fascinating, figure out what I’m missing in terms of detail.  All in preparation for the EAR.

We are slated to get up way too early to head for the balloon launch at the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.  Fortune-teller that I am, I see a nap in our future tomorrow.

(I forgot to bring the thingy to download pictures to the computer, so they’ll have to come later.)

The worst thing about divorce is not being able to be with my daughter every night.  I miss her.  She’s 13 and she’s (still) wonderful.

The other night, I received the following text from her, at about 10:40 pm.  Her dad was asleep in his easy chair and she was still up.  It read:

“Thank you for everything you have ever done and will ever do for me mommy.  I love you and I hope you had a good night.  I miss you.  Sleep well.”

That’s why I miss her.

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