Early on, Christina and I developed a love for good food and traditions. At the age of 6, I introduced her to fine dining by taking her to the famous Mansion Restaurant in Dallas. I called ahead to ensure that celebrity chef Dean Fearing could accommodate her usual preference of a cheeseburger with “meat, cheese, ketchup only.” Dean was happy to oblige, as well as fulfill my request for flowers for Christina. Sitting in this magnificent place of beauty, grace, and style she was right at home. The maitre de and wait staff could not have been more accommodating and they, like me, seemed to realize that this little girl was unique. At the end of the meal, the headwaiter complemented her manners as well as her lovely red plaid christmas dress and gave her a little gold box of Godiva chocolates. They offered to take our picture beside the Christmas tree that graced their lobby. I’ll never forget her look and comments as she bounced through the granite and marble foyer on our way out clutching her red rose and her little gold box of chocolates. “Let’s always eat here from now on,” she said. I chuckled to myself at her inability to comprehend the financial implications of that statement.
This did, however, start a yearly tradition that has stood to this day. Combined with our annual enjoyment of the “Christmas Celebration” by the Dallas Symphony at The Meyerson, it’s always been a highlight of the year. In her college days we still worked this in and enjoyed memorable conversations about her year at school and plans for the future. I’ll never forget the year that we went to The Mansion to eat after Chef Dean Fearing had left to start his own new restaurant at The Ritz Carlton in Dallas. Christina cried (we both cry easily!) as we left there. They had remodeled, white washed its rich dark interior with new paint along with shaking up the whole menu, and worse, replaced the gorgeous christmas tree that we always stood next to for our photo.
Next year we followed Dean to his new restaurant (Fearings), where the tradition has been kept alive for 21 years running. Funny story – Dean always enjoys seeing us and, in his signature gracious style, pays a visit to our table. A couple of years ago, after some friendly banter, he graciously said to Christina, “Would you like a photo?” Knowing his “celebrity status,” he fully expected me to take Christina’s camera and snap a shot of the two of them. I’ll always remember the look of surprise on Dean’s face as Christina handed him the camera and moved her head instinctively to mine as she awaited the documenting of yet another daddy/daughter moment. I, of course, returned the favor and have this photo as a result. You can’t help but love that girl!
Here are a few of those Christmas tree photos: