Thank You For Making Me a Mom

At this very moment, 4 years ago, I was resting after becoming a mom a mere 3 hours earlier.   I remember every second of that day, the smells of the hospital, the sounds of the machines, the jokes from my doctor, and the ear piercing screams of my first baby boy.   I cried my heart out when I first held him and some nights I still feel like I could cry my heart out when he cuddles up next to me while I read to him and whispers, “mom, you’re my favorite.”

David Brian says "hello, world.  I'm here."
David Brian says “hello, world. I’m here.”

Four years ago today, I became the best person I could ever be.   Four year ago today, my husband and I grew closer than either of us had ever thought possible.   I remember how we both sat in awe over this tiny creature that slept peacefully nuzzled up in my arms.  We were mesmerized with him, in love him, and over the moon happy.   We kept asking how God had graced us with such a wonderful gift.  He was truly ours, we had created him.

My first "mommy and me" picture.
My first “mommy and me” picture.

We’ve had four years of some of the greatest love two people could ever experience.  We’ve had four years of Davey, and a lifetime still to go.

Celebrating his first Clemson tigers post season victory...ACC Champions.
Celebrating his first Clemson tigers post season victory…ACC Champions.

I’ve found myself over the course of the past week, leading up to his birthday, reminiscing about the past four years.   Facebook memories have popped up, enabling me to saturate my timeline with little milestones in the life of Davey and our journey down parenthood lane.  Some days I’ve found myself shaking my head at how much he’s grown.   I think back to the first nights being home with him, and how I’d never had such small amounts of sleep.   I chuckle as I think back to how in my moments of sleep depravity, accused my husband of trying to “steal” Davey from me.

Taking a bath and checking out the handsome fellow alongside him.
Taking a bath and checking out the handsome fellow alongside him.

My heart melts when I see the video of him taking his first steps, or exclaiming with such certainty that “I can read”, at a mere two years of age.   I cry when I think of the weeks when he was just two months old and suffered through a severe bout of eczema.   The poor little thing looked as if he were infected with the plague and unfortunately everyone treated him that way.  Of course, being the extremely happy and lovable baby he was (and boy he still is), he smiled at everyone even as they flinched when looking at him.  Me?  I wanted to smack them all upside the face, berate them and make them feel guilty for looking at my baby that way.

Always the little helper.
Always the little helper.

As I sit here writing this blog, I’m inundated with pictures on my digital picture frame.  Photos of Davey apple picking with his daddy, watching the parade of elephants for the circus, holding his baby brother for the first time, kissing Dixie, and playing in the sand with Henry.   I’m fighting away tears and trying to tear through the knot that has formed in my throat.   My God, I am the luckiest woman alive and I am so thankful for what He and Davey did for me…they made me a mom.

His smile is infectious.
His smile is infectious.

Every year on his birthday, while putting him to bed, I defer to a different story…the story of his birth.   At first, it started out sweet and quiet, as a sort of lullaby to nudge him off to sleep, but as the years have progressed him in age, they’ve become a bit more interactive.  This year, I continued along with the story of his birth and for the first time, he was able to tell it with me, and even asked questions along the way.

Holding his baby brother for the first time.
Holding his baby brother for the first time.

“mommy, were you happy when I was borned?”  Yes, he said “borned”.

“I was over the moon happy.”

“Was daddy happy?”

“He was over the moon happy.  And wanna know what else, Davey?  Mommy and daddy are still over the moon happy.”

Watching over his baby brother.
Watching over his baby brother.

I don’t think I can ever verbally convey what Davey has done for me.   I don’t even think putting it in the written word will truly do it justice.   I am better because of what happened four years ago.   I am who I was always meant to be.   And so every birthday, after telling his birth story, I kiss my son good night and I tell him “thank you.”

Cruising on the Erie Canal with my main man.
Cruising on the Erie Canal with my main man.

I can’t believe four years have already passed.   I’m anxious to see what the future holds, but what I wouldn’t give for that time machine to take me back.

On our way to see the Yankees and Braves play.
On our way to see the Yankees and Braves play.

The happiest of birthdays my sweet, sweet boy, my first born, the one who made me a mom.

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Where Were You?

I opened my front door to thick humidity.  It seemed to wrap it’s tendrils around my entire body, suffocating me, all the while laughing while doing so.   My first thought, “why did I ever move to Charleston?”   That was 7:30 am on Tuesday morning September 11, 2001.

I was working for a country music radio station selling radio advertising.  I was starting my third month on the job and eager to prove myself.   My thoughts that morning swirled around the copy I needed to write for some commercials, the contracts that needed to be signed, and a list of cold calls that I needed to make in person.   I had on my smart red skirt suit, sleeveless to help relieve the oppressive heat, and black patent leather strappy heels.   I was ready to kick some butts and take names.

I had moved to Charleston earlier in the summer to continue a relationship with my college boyfriend who had gotten a job working for SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare).   He did network security so his job had him travelling a lot.   I had just put him on a plane the night before.  He was heading to San Diego, Ca.   He didn’t call me when he landed, since it was much too late, but he did email me once he was in his hotel.  I read that email on Tuesday morning while sipping my coffee.   He said he’d see me in two days.

The radio station I worked for was owned by a company who also owned five other radio stations, the maximum amount at that time for FCC standards.   One such radio station was an all talk, 24 hour news station, so they had tvs set up everywhere in the newsroom.   I’d been there three months and had never seen that room.

We had our normal sales meeting, then met individually with our sales manager on our goals and calls for the day.   My sales manager was eager to get going as he had a flight to catch at noon to NYC.   As I was sitting in his office, his phone buzzed.   “Artie, a plane has hit one of the World Trade Center towers,” another coworker said through the speaker phone.   My manager looked at me and then got up and went down the hall towards the newsroom.   I followed.

Our news reporters and on air personalities were everywhere.   The waves were buzzing with what had just happened.   Was it an accident?  How did it happen?  What kind of plane?   Computers were going crazy and printers were spitting out news reports and eye witness accounts.   Truthfully, none of us thought much of it.

I walked back out of the newsroom, grabbed my satchel and list of morning cold calls and walked out the door to my car.   Instead of heading west on 526, I went east, back towards the little house I was renting on the Ashley River.   I wanted coffee, MY coffee, something better and more potent than the cheap packets our company bought.   I opened the door savoring the blast of A/C as it nearly knocked me off my feet like a dog welcoming me home (strange the things you can remember). I flicked the switch for the television, tuning into the Today Show, before walking into the kitchen to brew some coffee.

I listened to the speculation in the background, heard the news reports and the paranoia.   Conspiracy theories were already abounding.   I rolled my eyes as I poured the coffee into a travel mug.   It was a horrible situation, but I was convinced at that point that it was a mechanical error with the plane.   There was no way this could be intentional, these conspiracy theorists were always looking for something.

I rounded the corner, coffee in hand, into my living room where at that moment an image was forever seared into my brain.   An image I’ve never been able to get to fade.   At that very moment I saw a second jet, an airliner, huge one, slam into the second World Trade Center tower.   My coffee dropped from my hand as the plane exploded into the building.

That is where I was when 9/11 happened.   This event became something I never thought I would experience, a tragedy reserved for my grandparents and parents.   This was my generation’s Pearl Harbor and JFK assassination.  We would forever ask ourselves, “where were you when 9/11 happened?”

We were told that morning to go home, to hug our loved ones.   We were instructed NOT to go see customers and conduct business as usual, because life couldn’t go on as usual, at least not at that point.   I called my boyfriend in California, waking him up, and told him what happened.   I called my mom since I have a cousin and his wife who live in NYC.   I wanted to know if she knew if they were alright.   She said she was trying to reach her brother.

I remember feeling inadequate and helpless as I watched news coverage of these selfless firemen, police officers, and every day citizens, sacrificing their lives to save others.   I wanted to help them.  I wanted to will all of my strength to them.  I wanted to get in my car and drive to NYC.   I could help locate people.  I could make coffee, brings blankets and food.  I needed to do something. After a couple of hours of shock and anger, tears and heart ache, I decided that the least I could do was donate blood.   I stood in line for six hours to donate.   It’s all I could do at that point.

14 years later, I’m raising part of a generation who I hope will never have a 9/11 moment, or a Pearl Harbor, or a JFK assassination.   14 years later, I’m at a place I thought I would never be…a stay at home mother to two boys.   14 years later, I’m having to explain to my oldest about the sheer evil that can be found in our world.   14 years later,  I still find myself shaking the hands of police officers, fire men, soldiers and all first responders for being the heroes so many of us need.  14 years later, I’m still owing a debt to the families of those heroes for their sacrifices in helping to keep me safe.  14 years later, I still get a lump in my throat and a sadness in my heart at the loss of so many lives.

I will never forget.   None of us will ever forget.  It forever changed us.   I like to think it made me stronger.

Davey asked a question this morning after seeing a news report about the tragedy.  I explained to him the evil that’s in the world and how people don’t like our country.   His response?   He went out onto our front porch, where Old Glory flies day in and day out, put his hand over his heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.   He then followed that with a prayer for God to help all the evil people in the world.

14 years later and life is still moving forward, something I thought would be nearly impossible on 9/11/01.

There’s Something in These Hills

And so goes the words of Joe Sherman, Clemson class of ’34.   If you’re a Clemson grad, then you know those words.  They echo with a soft, but firm voice through your head when you cross paths with tiger paw prints on your way into campus.  When Mr. Sherman wrote those words, he embodied the true feeling of Clemson, the city, the University and the mountainous valleys of the Blue Ridge Mountains that seem to protect Clemson in its own little shell.

Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.
Tillman Hall, welcoming everyone back.

I grew up a Clemson fan.  No one in my family ever graduated from there, but my grandfather did attend.   Unfortunately, he had to leave when the Great Depression hit and he never returned to finished his education.  My blood has runneth orange for as long as I can remember.   There is no better place in my eyes than Clemson University.

Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.
Henry enjoying the last days of summer on Bowman Field.

When I drive into the City, I find myself reminiscing over days at Pixie and Bill’s and Calhoun Corners, the parties at Golden Woods and my apartments off campus.   I think with great fondness to the nights of eating gravy fries at The Huddle House or devouring some of the greatest sandwiches I’ve ever had at The Pot Belly Deli.   As I drive through Main Street, I look back with affection on the year I lived downtown, how convenient it was to hit up any of the local spots.   The Thursday night dance parties at TD’s, and the Monday night $1 Coronas at the Esso.   I made wonderful friends and created lasting memories.

Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.
Davey playing soccer on Bowman Field.

As I continue to stroll through, I come across Bowman Field, with the beautifully bricked structure of Tillman Hall behind it.  The bells chime a wonderful tune and I’m immediately transported back to Fall afternoons walking through campus, the leaves blowing around my feet, playing peek a boo with the list of names of graduates from years past that are imprinted in the sidewalks.   I can smell the hot humidity of the summers, the juicy crispness of the falls, the heaviness of the winters, and the awakening vibrance of Spring.

Henry's new kicks.  Fitting for our adventure.
Henry’s new kicks. Fitting for our adventure.

I can remember all of my classes, my professors, walking to class with roommates, eating at the Student Union, waiting in lines forever with heavy books to purchase, and my all time favorite place…the library.   When I remember all of this, I have a sense of longing, of sadness, and happiness all bundled together.   Those years, at this wonderful University, were some of the best years of my life.

Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.
Getting his first ever tiger paw painted on his face.

When my husband moved South from NY, I didn’t give him a choice of college teams to pull for.  If he wanted to date me, then he was a Clemson fan.   No questions, no debates.   That was the stipulation.   He didn’t argue.   Naturally, I’ve made sure my boys are Clemson fans as well.   I bought them Clemson gowns, hats, and booties to wear home from the hospital.   Their first stuffed animals were Clemson tigers.   They’ve had overalls, t-shirts, socks, jerseys, and hats.   I’ve even stood in line to get an autograph from C.J. Spiller for Davey.   My boys are Clemson all the way around.

Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.
Davey and Daddy enjoying the day.

This past Friday, my husband and I took them on an adventure.   We decided to go to the First Friday Parade.   We arrived two hours early, but traffic was still horrendous.   We parked down town, which allowed me the opportunity to visit some of my haunts, even if only through the windows.   From the moment we left the car, I listened to the bells of Tillman Hall chime a tune.   Louder and louder they rang as we walked closer until finally the beautiful tower was within my view, peering around overgrown oak trees.  I felt as if it were smiling down at me and saying, “Welcome home.”   Resting comfortable at its feet was Bowman Field, the original field for the football team, but a place now for sunbathers, Frisbee throwers, and picnickers.

Our future defensive line man.   Coach Swinney needs to check him out.
Our future defensive line man. Coach Swinney needs to check him out.

We set up our picnic in the shade of the trees right in front of Holtzendorff Hall.   I sat back on the blanket, camera in hand, and smiled as I watched my husband and sons, all decked out in orange, run and play on the field.  I clicked away, documenting the memories on my camera.   I took a brief respite from the picture taking to just really take things in, to tilt my head back and breath in that beautiful mountain air.   I was home again, well my second home, and it felt good.

Three of the most beautiful flags I've ever seen.
Three of the most beautiful flags I’ve ever seen.

I watched the new students walking around, briefly thinking that technically I’m old enough now to be their mother.   Yikes!   But really, I just smiled with happiness over being able to share this wonderfully magical place with not only my husband, but also our sons.   When I was a college student at Clemson, I NEVER wanted to have kids, so I never could imagine being back with two potential future Clemson students who shared my blood.

First Friday 2015.
First Friday 2015.

The parade was everything I remembered.  It was oozing orange, inflated with the spirit of Clemson University.   Tiger Rag and Clemson Cadence abounded everywhere.   Davey even managed to start his own cadence which everyone followed.   I could never put into words my overwhelming happiness from Friday.   Those of you who don’t know this university, or even those of you who hate it, will never understand how something like this can create such a sense of pride, happiness, respect, and fun.

Henry loved the band.
Henry loved the band.

Yes, Mr. Sherman, you were right…There IS something in these hills.  And I’m so glad to experience it.

Beautiful.
Beautiful.

The Time of Our Lives

Sunday we took a leap of faith.   Sunday we, my husband and I, took our oldest son Davey to his first ever Major League Baseball game.

The New York Yankees made their way down to the hot South to play the Atlanta Braves.    My husband, being the lifelong die hard Yankees fan that he is, was over the moon with excitement from the moment the tickets were given to us, which was approximately three months ago.   It’s unusual for him to get the opportunity to watch the Yankees play on t.v., much less see them live and in person, and three rows behind home plate at that!

We live approximately two hours north of Atlanta, so making the trip isn’t much of an effort, but we still worried about Davey and just how he would be with the trip and the actual game itself.

Saturday found my husband already bounding through the house with the anticipation of the following day’s events.  Any concerns, worries, or doubts he had in the weeks prior about taking Davey had been completely obliterated.   He was going to do something that he’d dreamt about for a while, something he’d envisioned in his head well before we ever had kids.   He was going to take his boy to a New York Yankees game.

Of course, my husband seemed to change roles with me as he debated over just what jersey he should wear to the game.   It was quite humorous for me to see the roles reversed.   Me?  While I have my share of Yankees shirts in my effort to show a level of support for my husband, I am a Braves fan at heart.   Having been born and raised in SC, the Braves were and pretty much still are the closest MLB team around.   I was a fan back in the days of Dale Murphy, even naming one of my Cabbage Kids after the Hall of Famer.   So, there wasn’t much to mull over in regards to what I would wear.   Although I knew that the Braves wouldn’t win, I still wore my Bravos gear!

On our way to see the Yankees and Braves play!
On our way to see the Yankees and Braves play!

I think the fact that we could possibly be seen on national t.v. also encouraged my husband to put much thought into what he would wear.   Unfortunately, Davey doesn’t have too much in the way of Braves paraphernalia.   He’s a true Yankee through and through, Mariano Rivera having been his favorite Yankee.   So, he wore his navy blue Yankees t-shirt and baseball cap.   I promised him, though, that he would at least walk away with a foam tomahawk. I had to get in my colors somehow.

We made it!  A house divided.
We made it! A house divided.

When we arrived at the park, the excitement in Davey’s, and my husband’s, eyes was evident.   We immediately had to have a family picture made, a house divided and exhilarated at what we were embarking upon.    We found our seats, literally three rows behind home plate on the Atlanta Braves side of the plate.   The first batter I was able to see up close and personal was Nick Swisher, a former Yankee, who has now become a Braves.   As a side note, he’s waaayyyy better looking in person.

Hello, Nick!
Hello, Nick!

We were only able to enjoy our seats for a few moments when Davey made his daddy make good on a promise…a big soft pretzel and a Sprite.   Davey had a blast.   He sat between my husband and me, chomping down on his pretzel, flinching when a foul ball would head our way only to be stopped by the netting.   He clapped when his daddy clapped, but he also clapped when I did, eager to pull for either team and please both parents at once.

Gotta love a good pretzel.
Gotta love a good pretzel.

We had a spirited day of dancing between each inning, eating hot dogs and popcorn, cheering for teams, and laughing at the mascots running around on the field.   Davey had ice cream in hat, a novelty which was the greatest thing in the world to him.   He was a mess, but a wonderful mess.

Chocolate ice cream in a baseball cap?  Yes please!
Chocolate ice cream in a baseball cap? Yes please!

He didn’t ask much about the game and as the 8th inning began to wane, so did Davey’s attention which was fine since the game was practically over.  The Yankees had a 20-6 lead.   Highly unlikely my Bravos would mount a comeback, but at one point they did threaten.   When that happened, Davey found that he enjoyed the chanting and the Tomahawk chop with his hand.

Doing the Tomahawk chop!
Doing the Tomahawk chop!

We sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.  Davey pumped his fist into the air to “root, root, root for the home team,” and counted on his fingers to, “one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ball game.”   I suppose; however, the most entertaining portion of our day was when my mother in law called to tell us we were on t.v. and to wave.   When I told Davey to wave because Grammy sees us, he waved frantically, but also looked all over the ball field for his Grammy, exclaiming, “I don’t see her, mommy.   Are you sure she’s there?”

That's us on t.v.!
That’s us on t.v.!

It was truly the greatest day ever for all of us.   We were sad that Henry wasn’t with us, but also knew that he wouldn’t last as long as Davey and Davey really needed some one on one time without his little brother.   We were very thankful to my parents for keeping him.

What really warmed my heart were the occasions when I caught moments of happiness between father and son.    The moments when Davey would smile at his daddy, which took me back to that morning when Davey asked, “Daddy, are you staying with me all day?”

Family photo op!
Family photo op!

My husband was happier that a blue jay singing in the Spring.   He chuckled at Davey eating his ice cream, put him on his shoulders for the 7th inning stretch, explained who the players were and even tried to get Davey to explain the superiority of American League over National League (a debate my husband and I love to have).   My husband was fulfilling a dream he’d had before he ever became a dad and to say that made me happy is an understatement.

When we climbed into bed Sunday night, my husband said, “That was the best day ever.   I’m so glad we took Davey.   I had so much fun.”

My silly boy after the game!
My silly boy after the game!

As did we all.