the little boy who’s all grown up

the little guy who taught me all about little guys

is no longer little

the one who brought cars and trucks into our toybox

(I already had the tractors)

now drives one of his own

filled with his precious family

 

the one who took my hand as we walked and talked

down the old road near the homeplace

now takes my heart and listens

and shares his words of wisdom

that sound more and more

like those of our Daddy

 

the one who held my firstborn when he was still so young

now watches as that grown baby girl holds his baby boy

and the two of them laugh together

and take selfies and

the little boy who’s all grown up

and I

look on

 

when did the baby boy

become one of my best friends,

when did he stop keeping me up late with

all the silliness

just to see my eyes droop and hear me talk nonsense

and become the man who sits and shares stories

and joys and worries and all the life thoughts

until the wee hours of the morning?

 

this person who will always be my baby,

yet who is taller and stronger and perhaps even wiser than I

(though there’s no need to tell him that right now)

and who, as we both tried to do something yesterday,

when I said,

“sorry, just trying to fix it, that’s what I do”

replied,

“yeah, me too”

and in that moment

I saw how much more alike we are becoming

than we’ve ever been before

 

and I give thanks

for I need his strength

and laughter

and I love that he still wears the worn out blue jeans

and t-shirts

and goes barefooted in the middle of winter

and chases the children around

 

last night he packed his Matchbox cars and children

into his big car and prepared to head back home

the little boy who once lived down the hall

now lives way too far away

 

as I said “goodbye” and wept

the tears fell unapologetically

for I know that life, it’s too short

and I know that, despite everything,

we all need to be known well

and loved anyway

 

and that baby boy, the one with the jet black hair

and big green eyes

who changed our world

when he came home to a house full of sisters,

he knows my faults and my flaws and

what the inside of my microwave looks like

and how quirky I can be

and for whatever reason, he says my name and he loves me

 

the little guy who isn’t so little anymore

he’s grown into the space he owns inside my heart,

the space he’s owned since the first time he wrapped his fingers around mine

and today it feels a little empty

as does the house

as the laughter and stories we shared echo in my heart and mind

 

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A Gem of a Day

Thirty-seven years ago today, this evening to be precise, our family got a big surprise.  In the days before finding out the gender before birth was a common thing, my Daddy surprised us with the news that we had a new baby brother.  Exactly what I’d wished for.

After three girls, my brother completed our family.  Not because, as friends would playfully punch Daddy on the shoulder and say, “You finally got yourself a son.”  Not because he was what my Mama predicted after having a brunette, black-haired, and blonde–a red-headed baby who would remind her of her sweet grandmother’s red locks.  No, he was born with a head full of black hair instead. He completed us because he was her Gem.  He was her baby, and he had been long-awaited and prayed for.

I remember Mama calling the house on the very phone that sits on my back porch now.  I got to talk to her while Daddy was fixing our supper.  She described my new Bubba to me, and as I looked across our small kitchen at my Daddy, I nodded.  All the things she said–head full of dark hair, big blue eyes, dark skin–described my Daddy as well.  A boy.  Our lives were about to change.

In a very good way.

When he first learned to speak, we had a game we’d play with him.  I remember that day he first learned it and how we couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home to hear his “routine.”

What does the cow say?  Moooooo

What does the dog say?  Woof woof

What does the horse say?  Neigghhhhhhh

and so on–until we asked him using his nickname he earned by NOT wanting his hair washed EVER…..

What does Buffalo Hair say?    nec’ week, nec’ week   (as in that’s when he wanted his hair washed)

and finally–

What does Gem say?    I love you

 

Melted my heart, every single time.

 

He was my rock finding walking buddy.  He’s the one I loved to bring books home to when I worked at the library all through high school–I remember him loving “Billy and Blaze” books.  He’s the reason we had the cool AJ Foyt van and race car on a trailer to tow behind.  Our Great Aunt got it for him but we all loved playing with it.  He was the one ten years behind me in school who was a great student and even greater person.  As child number four he was allowed to do things that I was not–like running around barefooted in the middle of winter (Daddy–“he’ll come in when his feet get cold”) and not using a top sheet on his bed because he tossed and turned so much it just wasn’t worth trying to keep it on.  He didn’t have to eat the crust on chicken pot pies because of the alleged headaches it gave him *ahem*, and he’s known for being short and succinct with his words–like the time he was supposed to introduce himself at a televised Quiz Bowl competition.  He said his name and “Senior” and that was it.  We still laugh over that one.

The State of Georgia something or other once had a thing where you sent in a letter nominating your child as an All Star something, and they would send you a Georgia All Star shirt for each one.  I don’t remember what Mama said about the rest of us, but Bubba?  He was her All Star Fire Ant Agitator.  No antbed existed in the yard at Blackberry Flats that didn’t have two or three sticks poking up out of it.  All the work of my baby brother.

When I returned home from college and later in life, he delighted, night owl that he is, in keeping me up late, having conversations that were good and fun and meaningful until I was dropping off and talking gibberish.  I can still hear his laughter as he’d leave my room–mission accomplished.

He’s the uncle who is the cool one because he taught all the cousins to play “Colored Ribbons.”  He sneaks up and attacks when they least expect it, and the children all adore him.  When he first became an uncle, he used to bring us food from Nu-Way on Friday afternoons.  We’d catch up on life and he learned how to love and play with a baby at the ripe old age of 18.  From those days to this past August, filled with soccer games and playing chase and sneak attacks, he is adored by all of the children.  And Miss Sophie.  She literally moped for a few days after he left from his visit in August.  Dogs and children adore him–is there any better testimony to his character?

As a child he taught me about the joy in seeing life from a different point of view.  And he’s still doing that.  He has taught me about grace and how to handle hard times and we talk about hard things like prayer and where the people we love go after they leave this earth.  We also talk about this life as parents and the joy and fun, worry and difficulties that can come with all of that.  We share stories and ask each other advice, and we try to lift each other up.  And while we may not often talk about it, we walk together in this place of missing the ones who raised us so very much.

Tonight I give thanks for one of the best gifts my parents gave me and the world.  My Bubba, our Gem.  Poor guy–he had the equivalent of four females raising him.  He survived us putting him in the purple baby doll stroller that had springs on it.  When we put him in it, it went almost to the ground.  When we tried to lift him out, it came up with him, making it almost impossible to extricate him.  It took some doing to get him out of there without Mama finding out.  He deftly handled being our “go-fer” (go see if we can watch tv for example) by throwing us under the bus when Daddy asked him had we put him up to it.  (“Yes, Daddy, they want to watch it.  I don’t.”)

He’s a thinker and a world changer with a heart as big as the world.   I am doggone tickled that he’s one of mine, and I feel even more fortunate to call him my friend.

Love you, Bubba.  Happy Birthday!  And as Mama would say, Happy Everyday!

 

Pizza and Pandora’s Box

It’s been a great week with family visiting, and tonight we celebrated with supper out at the local pizza and fun place down the road.  I believe we got our money’s worth at the pizza buffet.  I wondered if the cooks there were going to be able to keep up with all of us and our appetites.  Finally we were down to nothing but the “pizza bones” as Daddy used to call them.

Nothing but pizza bones left.  I like to eat mine--but not this girl.

Nothing but pizza bones left. I like to eat mine–but not this girl.

Then it was the moment that every parent dreads.  At least the parents of those children who really shouldn’t be sent in unsupervised.  (Though unfortunately many are.  Just keep reading.)  Game Room time.  Ah the days when my littles were unaware of that room and all that goes on in there.  How great were those times?  But alas, they passed all too quickly.

Because, inevitably, they figure it out.  And though you might wind up going to eat pizza and NOT playing games a time or two, sooner or later peer pressure (we’re talking YOUR peers here, folks) or a party invite is going to open the door to that Pandora’s Box that is a carnival and gambling central all rolled into one.

So as we were doling out tokens (just a few, that’s all we can stand–us adults I’m referring to), the adults were having a conversation about who was going to go in.  Literally those words–GO IN.  As if Game Room Duty is like going into a war zone.  Ahem.  Discussion about whose forte’ it is to serve in this capacity was also held.  Ha.  As IF.

My sister-in-law was going in for their guys, while my brother stayed with their youngest.  I looked at Aub, my teenager, and gave her the option–you sit here with our things or you go with them.  I didn’t raise a girl with no sense.  She chose the sitting at the table job.  Well, obviously.

This is usually my husband’s or brother-in-law’s specialty, but being as neither was with us, I was stuck.  I followed my little guy in.  Our Princess was already playing the basketball game and planning to head to Skeet Ball after.  My guy headed to this contraption.

Push faster! Faster!

Push faster! Faster!

The whole point was to push on this lever and the barrel would spin, and land on the amount of tickets you “won.”  Oh did I not mention the ticket obsession?  People we are not going in to play games and have fun.  No.  We are going in to WIN.  TICKETS.  Tickets.  To GET STUFF.  *sigh*

So I think this machine was broken.  Because after my guy won his ten tickets, it said (oh yeah, it talks to you), “Play again.  Push faster.  Good spin.  Push faster.  Faster!”  Oh my.

My buddy had wandered off in search of his next quick fix for tickets.  I heard a voice from behind me.  “You’re supposed to push it.”  I turned around.  And looked down.  This game advisor was not much bigger than my little guy.  So I shrugged and pushed it.  He sounded let down.  And a little indignant.  “You have to push it faster.  And KEEP PUSHING!”

Now I’m being intimidated by a seven year old?  I don’t get paid enough for this.  But I pushed and got like four tickets or something for my efforts.  Ready to move on, I hear the machine, “Play again.  Push faster.”  My advisor said in his deadpan voice now, “Uh, you’re not done.”  Oh-kay.  My Buddy had wandered back up, so I set him to work.  Pushing faster.   He had four turns on his two tokens, and I thought well, wow.  That’s all right.  I mean, value wise.  Ha.  As IF.

Next I joined my girl for her basketball game, which she enjoyed.  Then she wanted to try that ticket game.  She walked over and there was a young girl, maybe seven or so, just standing there.  I finally asked if she was playing.  She said she was holding it for her brother.  I didn’t see anyone heading our way, so I asked if we could play quickly and then give it back to her.  She shrugged and moved to the side.  My Princess put her tokens in and pushed.  She was pretty fast too, which was good apparently.  As it was spinning, I heard a voice that I recognized say, “Hey, I told you to guard the game.”  Yep, my advisor.  I wasn’t letting his sister take the rap on her own, so I told him that I’d asked to play, and that as soon as we were done, it was his.  And just like that, we WERE done.  One turn only.  I guess it was broken earlier.

When all the cousins were done, it was ticket cashing time.  At the wonderful counter filled with all kinds of amazing JUNK.  I am sorry, but have you seen the quality of what they are offering?  And the thing about this counter is, someone’s gonna leave crying.  It might be your child, upset that she didn’t have the 268 tickets required to get the four shiny plastic rings that would have been 4/1.00 at the dollar store…..or it might be you, crying out of frustration at the hemming and hawing that is going on in the selection of just the perfect combination of three army men that take 15 tickets and two Tootsie rolls that take 10, so that leaves your child 3 tickets and she MUST spend them.  Good times, good times.

And really they were.  Well, with the exception of me thinking I was being the “adult” by going in this room which I abhor with my children and winding up acting like a child, intimidated by a seven year old, and me begging (okay whining) my children to hurry up and just pick something already.  Yeah, except for that, a good night.

Because these cousins were kind to each other.  Our Princess had 20 tickets.  Which meant she could get four things that took five tickets.  (Math this late–I’m so proud.)  The only thing besides candy (which I nixed) was the army men.  Yay.  She was miserable, but we talked and she decided to get the army men and give them to her cousins.  My little guy “decided” (ahem) to give some of his army men to his cousin who didn’t get as many tickets.  (Peer pressure from Mama–does that have a name?)  Their older cousin, who had 60 tickets to spend, decided to spend almost all of his on our Princess and got her a bracelet and one army man for himself.  Now that’s the stuff you can’t pay for right there.

Number of slices of pizza to feed all of us:  roughly 37.5 minus some pizza bones

Times we adults got up to refill plates or drinks for little ones:  12 (okay, honestly? I lost count after 8.)

Times my littles had to go to the bathroom: 3 (yes, I only have 2 littles *sigh*)

Number of cuddles I had with my little nephew when I was returned from duty in that room: too many to count

Cost of Game Room per Army Man:  Something like 50 cents each?  (and one didn’t even have its head, y’all…..quality items, I’m just sayin’)

Value of the memories that will remain from tonight:  PRICELESS

And that is what makes it all worthwhile.