Category Archives: Florida

I thought, he walked, on the water

Leland Thompson was the truest Floridian you’ve ever met.

He was my first hero.  And he passed away on Sunday evening.

Uncle Leland was my grandfather’s brother.  He spoke with a rattle in his voice that belied his years of life; slow, deliberate speech, with a southern drawl and that gravel that told me maybe he’d smoked in his past.

He and Aunt Margaret lived on a farm in Dade City.  If you imagine a farmhouse from the 30’s, complete with wood paneling and hardwood floors, a gorgeous front porch – the exterior painted white.  No trim colors of any kind.  Just white.  Set by a pasture, next to the woods, under a hammock of the most stately oaks ever seen, just at the end of a dirt road near the river . . .

In his younger days, he was elected sheriff of Pasco County.  As an officer, he once apprehended a man after the man shot another officer while the three of them were in an elevator.  His farm had hundreds of cattle, and pigs and gardens and all the stuff farms should have.  He was a real life hero, as well as one in the imagination of a little boy.

When I was little, he’d always slip my mom a dollar for both me and my sister, right at the end of our visit.  He’d pretend we were in on it, and wink, and say “Now, Mrs. Joy, these young’uns need some ice cream – so here’s a little money for each of them.”

He would always make time to take us on rides on the Grey Gopher, his old army jeep.  Some of the most thrilling memories from my childhood were of my parents telling us we were going to Dade City on Saturday, and getting there, knowing we’d take the Gopher out for a ride.  We’d see deer and hogs and turkeys and alligators – some of my love of Florida was formed in those tattered vinyl seats.

There were summers when I’d spend whole weeks on that farm

His barns were filled with hay bales we could climb on, or a recent batch of kittens, or maybe some little fluffy chicks he’d give us to bring home, much to my mother’s chagrin.  There might be a horse in the stable, or a docile cow, or his tamed deer Buddy might show up in the pasture.  He once let me pet some buffalo that wandered in.  His front porch was a southern Sunday in the south with old folks in rockers and someone singing gospel and sweet tea and chicken and dumplings . . . in short, it was everything a country boy could want out of life, all in one place . . .

I’m rambling a little bit, but it’s hard to put into words . . . the last time I saw Uncle Leland was 2011 . . . we had brought him some furniture from my apartment.  Cancer and time had savaged my hero.  He met Will, and Olivia.  He teased her about how pretty she was, about boys and school, and he gave Will a watch.  We visited for a couple of hours.  He bragged about his grandkids and kids, and I knew, when I shook his hand and hugged him goodbye, that it was probably, you know, a real goodbye . . .

Each of my kids, in turn, gave him a hug, this man who was so large in my mind, a frail and genial old stranger to them.  In that moment, I flashed back to my childhood:

My grandfather, my Poppy, Uncle Leland’s brother, died when I was 12, and Em was 7.  It was sudden – I talked to him on Saturday, and Sunday he was gone.  Poppy was buried in Dade City, in the city cemetery there.  As was always the case, after the funeral, we all headed to Uncle Leland’s after the service.  All of my cousins and uncles and aunts were there, and it was a family reunion of sorts, somber at first, but warming as the day went on.

If Uncle Leland was my hero, Poppy was my buddy – we talked on the phone almost every day, about sports and fishing and who knows what else.  But like most 12 year olds, I didn’t fully grasp the situation.  I was sad, but I didn’t completely understand.

And, as we got ready to leave that June evening, in the late 80’s, I’ll never forget saying goodbye – he put his arm around me, and around my sister – he looked us in the eye, the only time I’ve ever seen him misty, just hours after burying his brother.  He always called my mom “Mrs. Joy,” and his raspy voice scraped the words one more time . . .

“Mrs. Joy – the young’uns are gonna need a grandfather now . . . here . . . Let me get ya’ll some ice cream money . . . ”

I’m out of town for work today, 2500 miles away, so I won’t be there this afternoon, after the funeral in Dade City, when all the Thompson’s will head down that dirt road out to the farmhouse near the river.  Bring a dish, comfort Aunt Margaret . . . it’ll start somber, but warm as the day goes on . . . there’ll be sweet tea and chicken and maybe a gospel song . . .

And I’d give all the ice cream money I’ve got, just to do it one more time, to sit there with him, in that little white house, under those stately oak trees, set by the pasture . . .

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This is another post from the archives (of a previous blog), but I love it so much I decided I’d repost it here, 4 years to the day after these events unfolded.  It’s funny, because I have no pictures of that day – I totally forgot my phone!

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to put this post together. It’s long and wandering, and, I hope, has just a touch of magic.

I think I’ve alluded to it before, but my daughter and I read the Harry Potter books together. Not, together, like, I sat on her bed and read them while she listened; and not together, like, I had a copy and she had a copy and we sat on couches in the living room doing synchronized reading. Together, like, we read through them at approximately the same time.

It was my second time reading through them, but, as Liv was young, and none of her friends had read them, I wanted her to have someone to process the books with, to debate and discuss and determine what she thought about them. We’d read a book, and then take practice AR tests on it together, and then we’d watch the movie that corresponded with the book.

For hours and hours we’d debate who was the greatest wizard of all time? Who was braver, Sirius or Snape? What would it be like if there was a real Ministry of Magic? Should we adopt a snowy owl? What do you think Diagon Alley smelled like?

And it was with great fanfare that we sat in the living room and watched videos where the kid that played Draco in the movies unveiled plans for a Harry Potter theme park. And right then, in a scene (almost) straight out of Thelma and Louise, we joined hands and resolved to go.

Fast forward to “Spring 2010″ which, evidently, Universal barely squeezed in (Summer, 2010 started on June 22nd or something, and The Wizarding World opened on June 18th, so, yes, technically spring. But not really. Not in Florida.). We make the pilgrimage (’cause that’s what it was) to the King Kong Level of the Universal Parking Garage, walk through CityWalk, redeem our tickets, and stand in line somewhere around the giant Betty Boop*.

*it should be a testament to my grandparents and teachers that I somehow know who Betty Boop is. I don’t remember ever learning about her/it, I just somehow know. Maybe everyone knows, intrinsically somehow. Me, I just feel like my grandmother told me. Or my 3rd grade teacher. It’s not important. In fact, I shouldn’t have even asterixed it. Oh well. Too late now.

Now, I could regale you with all the details of how long we stood in line*, and how awesome the Forbidden Journey was*, or my take on the food*, or the butterbeer*, or Honeydukes*, but this post isn’t really about that. This post is about Ollivander’s wand shop*.

*a long, long, long, time

*very, very, very, awesome

*the food was pretty good; like rotisserie chicken from the Publix deli

*the butterbeer, when frozen, is pretty magical stuff

* Honeydukes, was, in a word, crowded. And pretty authentic.

* keep reading, I’m getting to the part about Ollivander’s

So, it’s probably 1:30 in the afternoon on June 21st, and we are standing in line for Ollivander’s Wand Shop. I’d read all the reviews and heard that the wand shop had a cool little show, and you really don’t want to miss it.

And so we stood. And an hour passed.

It’s funny to look at the village of Hogsmeade when it’s June. I mean, it looks spot on perfect to what you see in the movies. Your eyes realize it’s a perfect match, down to the snow on some of the roofs.

Only, your brain has trouble putting that all together, as it’s 95 degrees, and the snow seems terribly out of place in the Florida heat.

Another hour passed. We were now into the “rope line” portion of the wait, which is encouraging, but also misleading. It’s encouraging, because you weren’t in the rope line before. It’s discouraging, because rope lines are constructed in a manner to pack people as closely together as possible, deceiving you once again into thinking you’re closer to the front than you really are.

Another hour.

Now we can see the door.

I’ve read that they select someone from the audience to participate in the show. I think how cool it would be if Liv got selected. I look around at the group we’re likely to shuffle in with. Hmmmm. Lots of kids. This is gonna be tough.

We’re the next group. Wait, what is that woman doing? She’s asking if she can cut in line and go in? She doesn’t speak very good English? Wait, the prefect guarding the door speaks Spanish! Day saved!

It’s our turn.

We walk into the chilly room and our guide asks us to cram over as far as we can against the wall. As my eyes adjust to the light, I look around to see wand boxes everywhere, with display cases highlighting some of the most famous wands.

Finally, the door closes, 25 or so of us, sweaty and smelly and giddy with excitement, all crammed into this tiny room, and a man, gaunt and robed, up on a ladder, turns and crassly says “I’ll be with ya in a minute”

He comes down the ladder, and meanders through the crowd, looking at his list, muttering to himself.

We exchange glances, a little bit of “this is so cool” and a little bit of “this dude might be off his rocker.”

The other kids in the room, each certain they’re going to be chosen, crowd toward the old man.

All of a sudden, he turns around in a tornado of robes and dust, and says, pointing at Olivia, “You there? What’s your name?”

“O-Olivia”

“Olivia what?”

“Olivia Thompson”

“YES! YOU’RE THE ONE! Come with me!”

And Liv glanced at us nervously, but followed him up to the wand counter. I mean, we knew enough about Harry Potter that you didn’t want to cross Mr. Ollivander.

He stood there and measured her and eye’d her. She giggled and turned around to look at us. Unsure, but safe, she went along with him.

“You’re here to choose a wand, right?” he asked . . .

“yes sir”

“Well, as you know, the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around. Let’s take a look at what we have here for you”

He chose the first wand, and handed it to her, reciting some of the specs of the wand.

“Using this wand, I want you to open that drawer”

Liv turned and glanced my way, skeptical. But, ever obedient, she pointed the wand at the drawer.

And to her utter amazement, all of the drawers in the place started snapping opened and closed.

This time, when she turned my way, her look was less skeptical pre-teen, and more “wow, there may actually be something to this magic thing.”

“That’s not the right one. Here try this one. It has a Unicorn hair and is made of willow. Point it at that bell and make it ring one time”

She took the wand and aimed it, and the bell rang repeatedly. Everyone laughed. Flashbulbs were popping everywhere.

“We’re getting closer. How . . . about . . . this one.”

He went into his schtick about this wand, displaying it to her as your optometrist office would help you pick out glasses.

As the wand was placed into her hand, we’re a little foggy on the details. Some say a light shown down on her. She promises that a wind blew her hair, although, I think that may have just been chills.

A lot went through my mind that day. I didn’t entirely have all the money I wanted to take that trip. It was a stretch. And I thought about the past couple of years, of the toll the separation and divorce had taken on her, hide it though she might. I thought about taking her to her first doctor’s appointment, all by myself, and how much she’d grown, and here she stood, looking more like a young lady than a little girl, sitting between reality and magic, and wanting so hard to believe, but not knowing for sure.

And as she turned one final time in that cold, musty room, and our gaze met, I saw it in her eyes; they widened and then relaxed, with the realization that, in that moment, I believed in magic as much as she did.

So now, if you walk in my living room, you’ll see a dusty burgundy box sitting on one of my bookshelves, next to the Harry Potter books.

And laying there, proudly displayed in front of it, is that wand that chose her.

Things I think . . .

  • I think we have a pond in our back yard.  It’s about 1 1/2 acres of surface area, and it’s overgrown, and it attracts alligators and otters.  On Monday, Finley decided to do some laps in it – right after I gave him a bath.  And I had to go in after him.  I was displeased.  My father, however, who was there to witness the incident, was more than pleased.  In fact, I think he may start a blog and join facebook just so he can talk about it.
  • I think, in a completely related event, I want to sell Finley on Craigslist.  Ad will read: “Free to a good home: dog.”
  • I think Gilly might not be okay with that.
  • I think there’s collusion going on in our neighborhood Fantasy Football league – a dad/son combo down the street is swapping players back and forth with each other to circumvent bye weeks.  Olivia is marching up and down the street in protest, ranting and raving like a lunatic, garnering support to shoot down their latest trade.  I’ve never been so proud.
  • I think I went to church twice last week – once on Sunday morning, once on Wednesday night, to Awana, with Will, for Dads and Doughnuts.  One of these two outings will result in a blog post on Friday.  Trust me when I tell you – do not miss it.
  • Gilly:  Which—if I may—can I just say that I am completely ashamed of what I used to do at church? I used to be in charge of making it “relevant” and “cool” and making videos and graphics and lighting. Turns out, Jesus is relevant without my help. And really, Jesus is what people want when they walk into a church building. Not videos and cover songs and pretty lights. I know this now, because after many years of church detox piled on top of many years of not-easy life, all I want is Jesus. No lights/videos/sirens/dancers necessary.

Stuff on Coley’s Head

I’m not a hundred percent sure when it first happened.

I will gladly admit I got the inspiration from Dooce.

Coleman is our eleven (almost 12) year old French Brittany . . . he’s crazier than a sprayed cockroach.  He’s been with me through thick and thin.  He’s been to more states than a lot of people you know.  He’s played in the snow and and in the ocean and loves peanut butter almost as much as his family.  He is a fierce snuggler.  When I was living with my parents, I had a twin mattress on the floor and he slept on my pillow or on my feet.   The very definition of man’s best friend.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, I thought “you know, I bet that dog would let me balance things on his head” and the rest is history.

These are some of our favorite things on Coley’s head . . .

This is the first photo I can find of me putting something on his head.  Date on the photo file is June 18, 2009.  This Rays hat is still in my boat – it’s my good luck hat.  I love this picture because it looks like he’s smiling.

IMG_6011

He loves seasonal stuff . . . lightweight and simple . . . with a little pumpkin . . .

During his short tenure as a member of the KGB . . .

Waiting for the Pilgrims to arrive on Thanksgiving . . .

Trying out for the role of a Shepard in the Christmas Story . . .

Showing the reason for the season (and, yes, those are ceramic Nativity figurines. And no, they were not harmed at all.  And yes, think about all the dogs you know.  Would one of them let you do this?) . . . Lots of people ask if the stuff falls . . . not usually.  I have tried some stuff that was doomed from the beginning: a lamp shade (freaked him out); Liv’s trumpet (couldn’t get it to balance, and it was really heavy); a lightsaber (I had the light and sound on, and it scared him (and me) to death.  We scrapped that idea); books don’t work well (I don’t know if they’re too heavy or what – just can’t make it happen)

Hoping for the opportunity to work at Gimbel’s or Macy’s

Jurassic Bark, anyone?

This is one of the coolest ones – I had been trying to do a cup for a while, but they’d always fall. We were driving to Orlando one day and I had this CFA cup, full; he was resting his head on the console, and I thought, “what the heck” – I sat it on his head at a stoplight, snapped the pic, and, amazed, left it there through three more intersections. He never flinched.

Irony. This is the stuff that makes all these pictures happen . . . (another aside – in 2010, Coley had a tumor removed from his head.  Stitches and scar and the whole 9 yards.  Never slowed him down or bothered him one bit.  I always wondered if it was easier to balance before or after; I really think it’s been easier after)

Easter morning. Similar to the CFA cup, this worked better when there were eggs in the carton . . . (did you know that the eggs in the blue carton, the mediums, are the freshest?  My grandmother, Ernestine, told me this years ago.  You can tell Gilly bought these eggs, because they’re not in the blue carton.  This isn’t important;  just thought I’d lay down some egg knowledge (get it – “lay down”))

Know what Costa Del Mar said about this pic – “cool” – no kidding – those boxes are hard to balance on a freaking shelf, let alone a round dog head.  The first time I tried it, I took all the sunglasses out of the boxes, but they were too light and went everywhere.  I had to put the glasses back into the boxes.  I also figured out I could stack them one at a time and spell out c-o-s-t-a vertically.  This one is one of my favorites.  It involved no treats.

I love the hats!

He got Hufflepup . . .

This is one of our most recent ones – a wine bottle from our wedding – it was empty, and it was HEAVY.  It fell the first two times, but we got it figured out . . .

Have you ever tried balancing something on your dog’s head?  Your kid’s head? Got any suggestions for stuff for Coley’s head? Are you on the Instagram? Hit me up @travis_thompson

Things I think . . .

  • I’m think I’m Egg.  Zhaust.  Ed.  Between helping my ex out with the kids on her days, work stuff, Gilly’s work stuff, potty training a puppy, and the baseball playoffs, I’m in need of about 4 extra hours each week.  But I’m sure no one else has that problem . . . (wry grin)
  • Speaking of “wry” – I feel like we are all friends now, and so I should tell you that I picked “Catcher in the Rye” for my book report in 6th grade ’cause I thought it was about baseball.
  • It wasn’t.
  • I’m thinking about opening a Betty Ford type clinic, only instead of alcohol abuse, it would deal with smart phone addiction.  Cause I’m telling ya’ll, somebody is gonna make a mint off this idea.
  • I think I have a Sam’s club sized bag of peanut butter M&M’s sitting next to me as I write this . . . and I look over and Coleman the Wonderdog has his face buried in it like a feed sack.  Some of his favorite things – peanut butter, chocolate, and hard crunchy candy shells.  He also likes dark chocolate, avocado, grapes – basically anything he can get his paws on that could cause him to die.  Also wallowing in armadillo poop.
  • I think last week I mentioned that I consider eating at Chick-fil-A to be the same as tithing.  I’ve decided to add Chipolte to that list as well.  I don’t know that Chipolte is Christian-owned, but I love it the same or better, so I’m counting it.
  • I think I started the kids off on the first season of “the Munsters” last week.  There’s something very pure about watching an old TV show like that – the slapstick-y comedy, the corny special effects, Fred Gwynne.  We watched the one where Herman and Lily get invited to a costume party with Marylin’s boyfriend’s parents, and the dad dresses up as Frankenstein.  Gold, Jerry, pure gold.
  • The following posts are forthcoming:  Stuff on Coley’s head.  The Great Hamster Hunt of 2013.  My thoughts on church.  Gilly’s invisible friends. And more, folks.  Much, much more.

Opening Day . . .

Saturday was the opening day of dove season in Florida.

I love dove hunting.  Ever since I was a kid, most years, first weekend in October, you’ll find me and my dad in some field somewhere around Polk County.  There have been times we’ve had to drive for hours.  There have been days in the rain.  Some are milder, although it’s usually close to 90 on opening day.

I’ve sat in blackberry patches and palmetto patches and cow pens.  Pastures and orange groves and millet fields.

Saturday, we were able to finagle an invite to a private shoot, on a high dollar field.  Tickets to shoot this field typically go for $75/person; we were able to go for free, due to a miscommunication on the outfitter’s side (read: he told us we were booked, but he didn’t bother to book it) . . .

So we meet up with our contact, and sit through the safety briefing . . . after clarifying the rules, our outfitter took us to the hayfield.

Y’all, this hayfield was a beautiful hayfield  Giant rolls of hay dotting it in a random pattern, edged by palmettos and pine trees.  A great place.

a beautiful hay field . . .

a beautiful hayfield . . .

The outfitter gets out of his truck and walks back and says . . . “Well, what do y’all think?”

To which I replied “You tell me . . . I’ve never been here in my life.”

Him:  “Well, I don’t really know anything about dove hunting.  But I’m pretty sure there are birds everywhere.  Ya’ll give this a few hours, and we’ll check on you to see how it’s going.”

To which I thought a couple of things:

  1. I am a fishing guide.  I make most of my money doing IT work, but I also guide, mostly in salt water.  I take people to catch snook, and tarpon, and trout and redfish.  And so I’m looking at this the same way I’d look at a fishing charter, only I’m the customer.  You guys, I cannot imagine a scenario under which I’d take my clients out to a beach or dock or island, and drop them off, and say, “Well, I’ve never fished here, ’cause I don’t fish for the fish you want to catch, but you give it a little while and let me know if you don’t catch anything.”  Yeah right.
  2. Um – staying in that same vein – how about I pick up my charter at the dock and say, “well, what do y’all think of this spot?  Think it’ll work?”  I could probably write off repeat business . . .
  3. How, oh how, do I not know someone with an extra 20 acres of land?  Because if these knuckleheads can take you on a dove hunt without knowing anything about dove hunting, imagine someone, who, you know, had actually done it a couple dozen times in his life could do!!!

Anyway.  Pops (my dad, who Will has named Pops) drops Liv and I off and we tote our chairs out to a hay bale.  He and Will then drive a quarter of a mile back around the field and park under some trees.

At this point, in most dove hunts, I’d tell you all about how birds began trickling in, one here, one there, blahblahblah.

Only.  There was one problem with this dove field.  It had no doves.

We saw bald eagles, and purple martins, meadowlarks and kestrels and buzzards and a mockingbird or two.  We saw a spider balancing on a piece of hay that was balanced on top of a blade of grass.  We saw a banana spider that was as big as my hand.

But no doves.

We drank Mountain Dews and ate candy bars and a good luck bag of M&M’s and a good luck bag of Twizzlers.  We had guacamole chips and cheese puffs.

Liv - ready for action

Liv – ready for action

Nary a dove.

The hay bale had bird feathers on it.  I’m not an expert on bird feathers, but these were small and gray, and, well, dove like.  If this had been an episode of Blue’s Clues, I’m telling you, everything was pointing “Dove” . . .

Have you ever driven around town and noticed doves?  There were seven in my front yard yesterday.  I don’t have anything special for doves out there . . . grass?  Ant beds?  Hydrangeas?  But seven doves, right there, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

And yet, in this beautiful hay field, where you can pay $75 to shoot doves, with a wonderful breeze and good luck candy and a father/daughter duet of “America the Beautiful” as two eagles flapped overhead – no doves.

So we sat, and we talked, and we joked and laughed and teased.  Sometimes we’d just sit in silence, until one of us asked the other “have you killed anything?”  Will walked the quarter of a mile to us; twice.  Once he was barefoot.  He wanted to know if we’d seen any doves.  He and Pops hadn’t.  Will had successfully shot a palmetto bush 20 times in a row.  It was the size of a small farmhouse.  But he never missed it.

Will, walking across a beautiful hay field, barefooted . . .

Will, walking across a beautiful hayfield, barefooted . . .

He had finished all of their Twizzlers, and worked on ours, which was fine, because Liv doesn’t really like Twizzlers; she’d merely choked down a bite of one as a good luck gesture.  It didn’t work.  Oh well – better to teach the kids that superstitions are silly, right?

Around 5, the outfitter calls to check in with us.  How are we doing?  Um, bro, did ya’ll line this property with dove repellant?  ‘Cause the law of large numbers says it’d be hard to find a piece of property in Central Florida anywhere where you could sit for 5 hours and not see a dove . . .

Still, there’s something special about the opening day of dove season.  How often, as a parent, do you get to sit with your kid, uninterrupted, for 5 hours?  No cell phone, no iPad, no TV.  We talked about school and church and crickets and spiders and buzzards and teachers and boyfriends and fishing and hay bales and palmettos and Duck Dynasty and shotgun shells and Twizzlers and brothers and birthday parties and Europe and passports and . . . and . . . and . . . no doves.

Before we leave, we crack open a 4-pack of YooHoos, and toast to an afternoon spent in the hayfield . . .

No doves?  Still a pretty successful day . . .

Highlights of a dove hunt . . .

Highlights of a dove hunt . . .

14

Dear Liv,

It seems like yesterday I was rocking you in the middle of the night, playing Madden 64.

You were a tough sleeper – you hated it.  So I’d sit downstairs with you, all night, every night.  I’d rock you.  I’d lay you on a pallet on the floor.  I cranked that stupid hand-me-down swing so many times that it finally gave out, at 5:30 one Thanksgiving morning.  I loaded you up and headed off to the K-mart for an emergency replacement.

I remember taking you to your first doctor’s appointment.  Me and you.  I was a terrified 23 year old dad, with no concept of well rooms and co-payments.  I remember cradling you in my arms after you shrieked because that crazy nurse tried to weigh you.  I couldn’t believe it either.

I remember you playing in the bathtub with Coleman, when neither of you were big enough to get out.

I remember working day and night building you a swingset, doing everything I could to make it by Christmas morning, and barely squeaking it in under the wire.

I remember dance recitals, and basketball games.  Soccer matches and hunting trips.  I remember you catching your first redfish, off a dock at Little Gasparilla – you were wearing pajamas with pumpkins on them, and you were barely big enough to hold the pole and reel at the same time.

I remember you cussing at the tv over a Halo match when you were 3.  I remember every Saturday, every single one . . . I’d get up at the crack of dawn with you, and I’d lay on the couch, and you’d sit on my back and we’d watch cartoons.

I remember trips to Andy’s, and school field trips.  Taking you to Space Camp.  Having to get you to school early for “Good Morning Lake Shipp.”  Did I ever tell you how much I love taking you to school?  I wrote a blog post about it one time, remembering when I’d sing the Longhorn Song for you . . .

I remember our Harry Potter trip (if you’ve never read this post, you really should – I wrote it about you and Harry Potter years ago).  One of my proudest days as a dad, from the sense of being able to do something for my daughter that I knew she wanted.  I remember every fish you’ve ever caught, almost always followed by the question . . . “can we keep it?”

I remember boat rides, and birthday parties, and trick-or-treating and church . . . bunk beds and room makeovers . . . school dances and radio sing-a-longs . . . Horse drawn carriage rides to look at Christmas lights . . . running around DC with your $2 flip-flops . . . shrimp boils and peanut boils and frying more chicken than should be allowed, just to see your face light up . . . making you clean your room and do yard work and wash cars and load the dishwasher and say “yes ma’am” . . . teaching you to swim, and feigning disapproval at your bathing suit choices . . . taking you for a ride in a convertible . . . sleeping on the floor in the living room so you could have my bed . . . coaching you on Fantasy Football, only to have you leave me high and dry as the season progressed . . . eating oysters and sushi . . .

It’s all happened in about 15 minutes.  I blinked and you were grown.  No longer a little girl.  A young lady.  A young woman.

And now Dad gets to become more of a spectator, albeit one screaming and cheering and holding up signs from the sidelines . . . hooting and hollering and wishing and praying for my girl . . .

I remember looking down into that clear little bassinet thing they have you in at the hospital.  I remember loving you so much that it physically hurt, and wondering how that could be, since you were only a few minutes old.  And I remember you wrapping your little fingers around my big finger, and I knew I was yours, and you were mine . . .

Happy Birthday Liv . . .

Love,

Dad