By Lesli Nolen
Published November 2011
I have found myself lately, overwhelmed with emotions. I never really thought it would be this hard. I have prepared myself, I have seen this day coming, but now that it’s actually here, I am in no way as prepared as I thought.
Breech and I met in college. He was on the baseball team and, I was on the basketball team. He liked me, and I liked him doing my computer class homework!! After some time, we started dating and that’s when I met his daughter, Ashley Lynn.
I was so nervous the first time I met his family. We were complete opposites. He’s a city boy and I’m a small town girl! He is an only child, I have a sister.
They were upper middle class and, well, I had some class. I had no idea what was going to happen next but all my fears disappeared when I looked into Ashley’s little brown eyes and ran my fingers through those natural blonde curls. She stole my heart at 18 months old and we haven’t looked back since.
Two years later, Breech and I married. Ashley was now 3 1/2 years old and, oh, those were some fun years. Marriage did not come with those natural mother instincts people talk about. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember telling Ashley all the time, “I have no idea what I’m doing; I have never done this before. How about we wing it and if it doesn’t work, it’ll be our little secret.” Ashley would lower her head, squint her eyes wrinkle her forward at me then she would just laugh out loud. Like sure, why not!!
I did the only thing I knew to do. I let her do what I did growing up—she got to drink out of the milk jug, dip her biscuit in the butter, stick her finger in the mashed potatoes to taste test and eat ice cream right out of the carton. I would take her to day care while I went to work and pick her up afterwards. This was our routine. We would come home, fix supper and hang out. One of her favorite dinners was spaghetti. And, she ate it best when she ate it with her fingers. We would go watch her daddy play baseball; we would go to the park and sometimes we just played in the floor. Then it was time for her to go back to her mom’s and start school.
I couldn’t believe it when she graduated Kindergarten. She had grown up so much, so fast in just one year. She rocked it on through elementary school and we continued to get her on holidays and during the summer. When she would come to our house we kept our routine. Spaghetti for dinner washed down with a gulp of milk from the jug and dessert was ice cream out of the tub. Each visit she was a little older, a little taller and a little smarter. She began not needing as much help from me as she once did. The older she got, the truer that statement becomes. It seems like just yesterday she was graduating from Kindergarten.
This year she is graduating from High School. You’d think that after 16 years I’d be prepared for this moment. I’m not! I was doing fine with all this until last month. It was her school’s homecoming, her last homecoming of high school. I’d asked her to send me pictures, to have fun and to savor these moments, and she did just as I asked. Pictures began coming in on my phone—pictures of her at the carnival, pictures of her with her friends, pictures of her with the mum she was wearing, pictures of her and her boyfriend. My heart overflowed with love, pride and joy. And that’s when I lost it; that’s when it set in. The little girl I met so many years ago is all grown up. I’m so proud of the young woman she has become. And I’d like to think I had a little part in molding who she is today.
This Thanksgiving will be our last Thanksgiving with her sitting at the “kid’s” table!! She is about to embark on this big world and all I can do is continue to pray for her, guide her and love her as I have done for the past 16 years.
Ashley, I want you to know I am so very proud of you. You are a bright, funny, kind, beautiful young woman and I am proud to call you mine. I pray that you will stay true to who you are and to reach for the stars. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. I love you with all my heart and you have made my life a bigger, brighter place to live and I thank you for that. And remember, there is always ice cream in freezer when you want to come home! I love you!