Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Living Life To The Fullest -- At Camp And At Home.

Nearly impossible to believe, but mere hours from now, I’ll be en route to Arapahoe, North Carolina to retrieve my two happy campers, Snarky Son (SS) and Darling Daughter (DD).

A friend warns that the kids will have changed. Hair length and skintone are obvious, of course. Four weeks without a barber, and sunscreen left in the hands of disinterested teenagers will do that. But I’ve also been advised to be alert for changes in height and shoe size, posture and confidence, attitude and – for lack of a better word – vocabulary. (This last is true. SS returned with some real eye-wideners last summer. And a couple of eyebrow-lifters, too.)

When I was little, I believed our house was rigged with cameras – all of them, naturally, focused on me. I’d perform, ahem, behave, accordingly. I’d sing, I’d dance, I’d pose for hours on end. I’d tuck myself into bed, hands folded preciously across my skinny little chest, waist-length hair arranged just so on my pillow. A little narcissistic? Yes. A tad creepy? No kidding. The thing is, I felt that people, namely my parents, noticed my every little gesture.

I have no doubt I'll see differences in the kids on Friday. I can't help but wonder whether they'll see me differently, too?

In DD’s most recent letter, she declared her intention to “live life to the fullest” (LLTTF) her last week at camp. This from a girl I constantly attempt to harangue and badger into optimism! (Truly. We have glasses here at home with the words “Ottimista” and “Pessimista” printed at the half-full/empty line. Suffice to say that DD cringes when I chant these dreaded Italian words. BTW, harassment doesn't necessarily evoke cheerfulness.)

I simply adore DD's enthusiasm and it occurs to me that I, too, have been LLTTF this summer. For the first time since the divorce, I had the luxury of relaxing, even slightly, the mantle of parenthood. So albeit unexpectedly, I’ve indulged myself these past few weeks. Visits to the spa and salon. Trips to Boston and Charleston. Potato salad for breakfast. Popcorn and wine for dinner. (Fine. Wine for dessert, too.) Not to mention the sheer ease of laundry and dishes and shopping and housecleaning for one. (Hey! Has everybody brought their dirty clothes to the laundry room? Why yes, I have!)

Make no mistake. I missed my kids. Terribly. There were days when I scarcely knew what to do – how to breathe – without them. I scanned the camp website every morning, checking for photos of them. I wrote them daily -- and sometimes, even more often. I tackled their rooms, cleaning out closets and adding a level of organization which they'll surely appreciate -- but only when they are parents themselves. OK. Maybe not even then. But truly, I’ll be thrilled to see them Friday.

Because whether they realize it or not, LLTTF these past few weeks has been good for all of us.

Yes, I'll eagerly tackle the laundry and attitudes and even the language they'll bring home with them. But for dinner tonight, I indulged myself one last time with a dish the kids would eat no way, no how -- artichoke salad. In fact, I was feeling so hedonistic, I made up with two artichoke salad recipes – and ate both! Here’s the first, along with a reminder from DD -- to LLTTF.

Artichoke, Olive, Fennel and Spinach Salad

1 box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
½ bulb fennel, shaved or sliced thinly
12 kalamata olives, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 rib celery, sliced thinly, on the diagonal
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
fresh baby spinach
For dressing
1 ½ tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
generous grinding of black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl (a lidded bowl helps), combine salad ingredients – except spinach. In a separate small bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper together. Gradually whisk in oil, to form an emulsion. Pour over artichokes mixture and toss well (or better still, seal with lid and shake). Spoon dressed ingredients over a bed of raw baby spinach. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
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