Reaping big Gaines: Close-knit family of three makes time to play together.
George Gaines has had a running chess tournament with his daughter Taylor since she was about nine years old. He spent the first year or so carefully letting her win half the time, so she wouldn’t lose interest. She then spent the next nine years besting him.
The relationship between a father and daughter can be sketchy at times but this relationship, according to George, is exactly what he wants – the closeness and openness with each other. They also share the same musical tastes and pretty much sit around and talk music and play chess.
Taylor, 20, an only child, has now flown the nest so to speak. She is currently living in the United States, attending university where she is pursuing her degree in drama and French. This is the first time she has been away from her parents and come September will start her third year of the four-year course. At the time of the interview she was here on a short visit before heading off to Paris on a six-week language programme.
The Gaines said they were “fortunate” to be in a position that allowed Kathy to be a stay-at-home mum for twenty years. Now Kathy relies on Blackberry Messenger service “a lot” and phone calls every week for chitchat. Taylor laughs, disagreeing – she calls home every other week or so, she says. “When I don’t call they get annoyed, but I try to tell them I am independent . . . . I can do stuff on my own.”
George, 49, is a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service and is responsible for the security of the American Embassy here in Barbados on his third tour. He has also served in the US military.
Because of his job he knows how important it is to be a bit more protective of a girl when raising her – “for obvious and pretty good reasons, but it’s also vitally important to give them the independence and common sense and life survival tools they are certain to need when they finally do leave the nest. I think being over protective is detrimental to both a boy and a girl, in fact.”
While they didn’t want to know the sex of the baby, they both decided that the baby would be named Taylor either way. Dad is a softie and says he finds it difficult to say no to Taylor at times.
Dad admits he was “a little worried” leaving her behind at college to head to Barbados last September.
“She is a smart young lady. Kathy and I knew deep down that the values we had instilled in Taylor from the start, as well as the sense of adventure and independence that Taylor had developed from living half her life abroad, had more than adequately prepared her for life on her own in the US.”
The Gaines have always regarded their life in the foreign service as a challenge, but also an opportunity for fun and adventure.
The family has been moving around since Taylor was eight months old and their first tour was Bangkok. Taylor learnt to walk and talk there, and picked up a fair bit of Thai language. After two years there, they packed up and was off to the Netherlands for three years. Then it was back to the familiarity of the US for five years. Croatia was next on the list when Taylor was 11.
Taylor saw it as a big adventure – riding trains around southern Europe, and trying everything they could in every restaurant they could. The Gaines saw this as a part of Taylor’s education.
Taylor was into acting from the early age of eight and wants to be a stage actress. Both parents are really looking forward to seeing her blossom in her career choice and are excited at the thought of seeing her in professional drama productions.
George remembers the first day of daycare, primary school, high school . . . up to university and he actually has a picture of Taylor and a friend on their first day of primary school. He also has a picture taken thirteen years later when Taylor and the same friend found themselves at the same university on their first day there.
The pictures start coming out and there is one of Taylor in Holland, sitting on the ground – against a beautiful backdrop of windmills – with a sulking look on her face because she didn’t want to take any more pictures (dad is noted for being camera-happy, says Taylor). There is another heart-stopping picture of dad knee-deep in the sea and a baby Taylor high up in the air, with a big grin on her chubby face, arms outstretched and looking down at dad who was waiting to catch her.
Taylor has become an excellent swimmer, by the way.
He then relates how they were videotaping a message to family and tour of the house during the Netherlands assignment and right in the middle of it Taylor, who at the time was about three or four years old, decided that she was no longer going to cooperate with the tour and went on a rant that lasted a good five minutes. Dad and mum are saving it to play back during her wedding reception.
Kathy and George met 24 years ago when they were both working for the US government. George was in training for an assignment as a diplomatic courier, and Kathy worked in a building just across the street. At lunch one day in the same food court restaurant, sitting a few tables way from each other, their eyes met. When Kathy left the restaurant he followed her and introduced himself, along with a cookie he had bought [“so she wouldn’t think I was an axe murderer”]. She accepted the cookie and the rest is history! They will be married 23 years next month.
George hopes to see Taylor follow the same path: “Eventually I would love for her to marry and have children, but I think we all agree that she has a lot of life to live before that!
On a final note I asked him what is the most rewarding thing about being a parent. “Watching the little bird you have raised for so many years become a young adult, capable of navigating their way around this complicated world on their own, using the skills, lessons and values that you taught them”, he said.
“Kathy and I have become a true partnership, as every aspect and decision of family life must have the considerations of everyone in the family. We really learnt how to cooperate and meet each other halfway. I also see very good qualities in Taylor that certainly didn’t come from me, so it’s really neat to see that Taylor really is a mix of the two of us.”
Coming from a family of eight (six siblings), George says he hopes to have taught Taylor about moderation in everything and frugality – values instilled in him by his parents. “I love watching Taylor make financial and other life decisions. That is probably what makes me the proudest of her.
“My biggest fear is that some terrible event would keep Taylor from living a full life and fulfilling all of her dreams. You can’t let stuff like that keep you up at night, and I’m a firm believer in living every day as if it were your last.”