Friday, October 10, 2008

Senior Retreat Letter to Daniel

Daniel and James with Nellie, one of my father's best friends, at Dad's Wake

James and Daniel at our Outer Banks family vacation

Daniel with Grammy and Papa before his Senior Ball

Daniel (3), Risa our dog, and Mom on a Hike in Washington

James and Daniel with their Grammy last Summer

Brandi, Daniel & Mom at the Museum of Natural History, NYC

Dan and his Dad with a Pregnant Brandi

Daniel and Brandi with baby Kellan 1 year ago

Now is the time of year that we parents of children in U-High (also known as the LSU Laboratory School) write letters for our children to be read by them at their Senior Retreat. Rich and I wrote James' letters last week, and he will discover what is in them, as well as what is in his grandmother's letter and his brother's letter on this Wednesday to come.

This is a special tradition, and so indicative of the Louisiana culture of love of ritual, family, friends, community and sentimentality. And although I am so excited and anxious for James (our Senior this year) to read our letters, I can't post them, as James might peek at this blog and then see them before he should (this is a very slight risk as I'm sure my 18 year old NEVER reads this blog). So, instead of posting James' letter, I will post Daniel's letter that I wrote to him 5 years ago.

He has evolved into such a wonderful man, partner, dad, and graduate student. And our relationship gets better by the day. But, I brag. Here is the letter I wrote to him in 2003 (Good Grief! Where does the time fly?). Let me also find some treasured pictures, not necessarily of him then, but in the last 5 years, to accompany this missive:

"Dear Daniel,

I am writing this to you to be opened at your November Senior Retreat, a ritual for U-High students getting ready to graduate from high school. I consider your graduation to be a major accomplishment and a goal you’ve achieved by overcoming some huge obstacles, obstacles that other kids never have to face. I am so proud of you.

There was a time when school was nothing but trouble; when you thought that you would be better off without it and without your mother who was always on your back riding you about the importance of your education. During those tough times, I hoped that one day you’d be able to experience the excitement of learning and the anticipation of looking ahead to college. I think you’re at that place right now (despite having to take Physics) and it gives me such great pleasure to see you happy and planning for your future life. Although things could change, at this point, you’re looking at majoring in Sports Management at Southeastern, which sounds perfect for you. Do you know how many people your age have no idea what they want to do? Worse, there are people who don’t find anything interesting. There are a million things you can do and learn. This is just the first of many adventures for you. Remember to include us in your plans along the way. They give us so much joy, just as you do.

I have so many memories of you Daniel—the first time we saw you in Korea (Daddy described you as a little ball with a head), you directing the “band” in that front playroom in Seattle (where the “band” was Grammy, Papa, Dad and me and where Papa had on a plastic majorette’s hat); you and dad driving off together in Fred the Red Ford Falcon to your Montessori School in Seattle; you and James tumbling on the floor like a couple of cats, playing in the basement of the house at Penn State; you, James and Daddy falling trees on Grandma Marge’s property in NY; you walking around the streets of Seoul alone buying food; teaching you about dinosaur names and buying you “teenage mutant ninja turtles”; you and I playing tennis in the rain outside in our backyard in Tara and at the courts at Orange Beach; you driving me around in that golf cart at Destin and stopping and starting so abruptly that I almost fell out; you and I awake on New Year’s in Rome, watching people throw furniture off of their balconies; your first dances and us buying the corsages; watching you become so independent and self motivated with your jobs (the card shop, the yard work, filming games for James’ team); you helping so much taking James to his activities and becoming such a good mentor to him; some of our dinners out as a family in the last several years where you and James are hilarious and so fun to talk to; enjoying you at Robin’s wedding in NM, and more.

So most of my memories are good! Yes, we’ve had rough times, but that’s mainly because you have certainly had your share of rough times, too many. I’m sorry if I’ve been hard on you but I felt—right or wrong—that you needed some limits and a push or two along the way. I wanted you to grow-up to be a fine man with many opportunities for a great life. Now you know that you can overcome, and that’s a good thing to know in this life. There will be other disasters and successes; and I’m always here for you to help you celebrate or grieve. As I told you recently, you can always come home.

I love you Daniel. And I’m sure glad that for whatever reason, the little boy from the South of South Korea found his way home to us. How would we have been a family without him?


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