Friday, August 31, 2007


Ten years ago today, a modern-day fairy tale came to an end with the shocking death of Princess Diana in an automobile accident.

As fairy tales go, it stood convention on its head, for it had, in contravention to the usual form, a sweet beginning and a bitter ending. The magnificent wedding at Westminster, with all its pomp and circumstance...two handsome young princelings born unto the happy couple...a fashionably dressed, lovely young princess, a stark contrast to the dowdy family of royals into which she married. All of these ostensibly happy years, followed by the gradual estrangement of husband and wife...the involvement of a horsy-looking Other Woman...public revelations of Princely Indiscretions...a divorce.

And then came the sort of news upon which the greasy tabloids thrive. Unthinkable. Painful. Yet who among us did not harbor a secret, fleeting schadenfreudlich thought that no matter how beautiful, no matter how famous, Diana was mortal after all?

As for us, the news of Diana was a remote event in a weekend full of tumult, like the ripples made by throwing a rock into heaving, storm-swept surf. For not only was it SWMBO’s birthday; it was also the weekend when we delivered Elder Daughter unto the arms of Boston University, there to begin her college career.

At the time we were resident in Houston, Texas - the very Sweat City where I write these words today - and Boston was an enormously long way off. So much so that, in lieu of renting a U-Haul trailer and making the three-day drive, we elected to send Elder Daughter’s dunnage up by way of UPS and take the Silver Aerial Bus to Boston with her.

This led to several complications, thanks to an exceedingly ill-timed strike by the UPS workers. Aaaggghhh. Fortunately, E.D.’s possessions arrived safely, albeit a few days later than desired.

We managed to get our now-Collegiate Daughter properly ensconced in her dorm room, and then went off to celebrate SWMBO’s birthday with prime rib and Mud Pie. It was a happy moment...and yet...

Sending one’s daughter away to a distant city is a bittersweet task. Baby birds must eventually leave the nest and stretch their new-fledged wings; it is the natural order of things. That knowledge appeases the rational part of one’s brain, but it is a poor anodyne for the emotions.

And I could not help but think of another set of parents whose daughter had gone off years before, to lead the sort of life - for a while, anyway - that most little girls can only dream of. For them, there was no sweetness to offset the dark bitterness of the day.

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