In the Haunted Guesthouse mystery series, written by my CLOSE PERSONAL FRIEND E.J. Copperman, Alison Kerby frequently talks about her late father, who often addressed her as "Baby Girl."
Well, that's no accident.
It has been said so often as to become a cliche that fathers and daughters have a special bond, and that the daughter generally has the upper hand, keeping her dad wrapped around any finger that happens to be available. Building a relationship different from all others, fathers and daughters like Alison and Jack Kerby communicate in a kind of shorthand, share some common interests (Jack taught Alison all she knows about home improvement), and are a reliable mutual source of smiles.
That very closely describes the way I feel about my daughter Eve. Now a 20-year-old college junior, she is among my favorite people ever. Time spent talking to her is never dull, and she makes me laugh more than just about anyone I know. Does she have me wrapped around her finger? You'd better believe it. Do I mind? Not even a tiny bit.
She's excited, she's prepared, and more than anything, she's terrified. That's how she operates.
Her father is not terrified. I know she'll do wonderful things at the University of St. Andrews, and I know people there will find her delightful and fascinating. Eve will no doubt come back a different person than the one I know, but that's not necessarily a negative. She'll gain experience and she'll gain a larger view of the world. Those are good things.
But let's not kid ourselves: her parents and her brother are going to miss her terribly. We're not looking forward to that.
This is not to make a huge melodrama out of a terrific opportunity for our daughter; we know it's just one semester and she'll be back right around June 1. We know that modern technology allows for Internet communication we couldn't have dreamed of the day she was born (thank you, Skype!). We know we'll have cell phones and Facebook (although Eve has wisely never friended her parents) and email and any number of other avenues to stay in touch that would not have been available if I'd been brave enough to do what she's doing when I was a junior at the same college.
She's a remarkable young woman, and we'll miss having her around (in the interest of full disclosure, although Eve lives off campus and not in our house when school's in session, we see her pretty frequently because her college is very near where we live--when she's in America).
Alison and her father have been separated by something a little more severe: Jack died five years before the start of the next Haunted Guesthouse novel, CHANCE OF A GHOST. But in her world, that doesn't mean they had to lose contact wth each other. Alison, her mother Loretta and her daughter Melissa all see and hear ghosts. Alison knows her mother has communicated with Jack, and Alison herself saw--or thought she saw--him briefly in the first novel in the series, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED.
But since then, the strong bond between Alison and her dad seems to have been severed. She hasn't seen nor heard from her father since that brief moment. And when she finds out that her mother has been seeing him regularly, but that he's now stopped all contact with her as well, Alison wonders if maybe their bond wasn't as strong as she had thought it was.
So she has a problem when Loretta asks her to help find the spirit of Jack. And that's just the beginning.
Luckily, Eve knows better. Her problem will be getting her dad to STOP bothering her while she's enjoying her life in Scotland, and then she'll be back for summer break, and will have to live under our roof once more for a couple of months (she doesn't seem to mind).
I think she'll have a glorious time on her adventure. I believe truly that she'll find the experience exhilarating and thrilling. I think she's going to meet people who will be important to her for the rest of her life.
Still, it's not going to be easy back here for her mom and dad. We're a couple of old sentimentalists. There are going to be some tears tomorrow night, so if you happen to see us at Newark Liberty International Airport, please be indulgent. It's not so easy to say good-bye.
Bon voyage, Baby Girl.