Mama’s Boy survives 8 years in a world that may not quite understand him…

Today is the anniversary of the birth of one very amazing kid. Mama’s boy was born 8 years ago today. I am grateful beyond words for him. Last year I wrote a post on his birthday and if you’ll indulge a re-read,I’m just going to repost that entry. It ws better than one I could write after a night of thunderstorms on the mountain. I am grateful to be here in the mountains, with my freshly 8 year old boy.

It is 2:13 a.m. on March 16, 2011. It is my Mama’s Boy’s birthday. Every part of my back and eyelids are telling me to climb in bed next to Jingle Joints (my 9-yr-old. Why he is here on MY side of the bed is a lengthy, rather dull story, so I’ll skip that one for a slow day in Blogville.), but my heart is telling me to take a few moments and honor one of the most extraordinary boys ever born.

He truly is. Extraordinary. Almost extra-terrestrial really.

He was born on a Tuesday afternoon and placed immediately up against me for a first hold in this world. After about a minute of a strained cry, the doctor determined he wasn’t quite all right, so they ushered him away from me and he was gone for the next 8 hours. That was an exhausting 8 hours, swollen with anxiety about what was actually happening in the NICU. As it turned out, it was fairly standard stuff. But it isn’t standard to not have your arms around the baby you’ve loved for 9 months and who has only been in the world for a few hours. There is nothing that feels standard about that. When they finally let me see him, it was about 8 p.m. I was shot. But I was so happy to be headed down that corridor in a wheelchair. He was hungry. And screaming. Really. Really. Screaming. He can still scream, 7 years later. I scrubbed my hands, rolled around by his bassinet, and the nurse handed me my pink, wrinkly disgruntled baby. I laid him up against my chest and said,

“Hey, boy. It’s mama.”

And in that exact instant, he stopped crying. Not a peep. And then I started up. Because I couldn’t believe that he was here. That he was mine. That the sound of my words could be a salve to anyone’s soul. It was a moment I will remember until I don’t remember how to string two words together anymore.

That was the day he became my mama’s boy.

I ruined that beautiful scene 10 minutes later by almost passing out, actually throwing up into a cup, and handing that sweet swaddled nugget back to a stranger. Who knew having a baby could be so hard? Oh, yes. Everyone. But it got better from there. And it has ever since.

Since it is 2:27 now, I will not try to recap the 7 years following. They have been amazing. How can he be that cute? That smart? That weird? How can he not know that someone is about to club him for being so annoying at the worst possible moment? How does he not sense when the joke has gone too far? How can his jokes make me laugh so hard right before they go bad? How could God have been so good to me?

I need to find him a good wife. He’s amazing…but he’s going to need a good, good wife. I have begun praying on that one and will continue. But as with everything, I believe I should try to do my part. And so I will post a video that I hope will serve as a Meet the Arranged Husband audition tape. Have your daughters watch it. Send me one in return. And we’ll talk.

Happy Birthday, boy. You are amazing.

Gatlinburg – City of Catastrophe and Adventure – Part 4 of too many to count…

Louisiana should take notes from Gatlinburg. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Let’s try bullets again. Maybe it’ll work for me this time.

Every vacation has highs and lows. Let’s discuss both, ok? Good.

* High: Finding Mama’s Boy the perfect slingshot, hewn by a real Cherokee Indian.
* Low: Shooting the pants off that slingshot until the not-so-sturdy wood broke. I bet if it had been made in China, we’d still be shooting rocks off the bluff. Take a lesson, local artisans.
* High: Seeing a jillion Tampa people at church in Pigeon Forge tonight.
* Low: Driving up one side of a mountain and down another. I was very, very close to tossing my cookies. Dad, where is your orange juice cup? I guess we know where the boy got his Vomit Gene.
* High: Taking a 3-mile-hike down our mountain which ended at the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Center.
* Low: Impaling my own lip with my hiking stick. Seriously. What kind of idiot?

A couple of standout moments for me included the babies, of course. My dad had driven down to the visitor’s center with the girls, knowing full well they’d gripe or fall apart during a 3 mile hike. So they gave us time to hike it, drove down, and walked up to meet us. Seeing my girls round the bend on that trail with hiking sticks and pigtails was a scene to warm my heart and soothe my knees and quads.

Also, this afternoon while I was cooking dinner. I heard Beloved complaining about the Smoky Mountain Bear puzzle she was trying to put together. AG came out of his room and said,
“What’s the matter, Beloved?” (He doesn’t call her that. He calls her by name. We aren’t THAT weird. But I don’t name the under 12 set on here…) She told him her puzzle wasn’t working out. He said, “I can help you.” And then he sat down and spent the next 15 minutes or more, just doing a puzzle with his 5-year-old sister, a scene I would never have predicted. Everyone offers to help SassyBritches with whatever plagues her at the moment, but the AG-Beloved combo is a rare one. And I took note of that. Forever.

Tomorrow we will hike to a one-room schoolhouse on the outskirts of town. A mile from this little school is the home of 5 sisters who attended that school. The government wanted their land when they started turning this place into a national park. The sisters held out. Finally, in 1941, they sold their property to the U.S. for $4750 on the condition that the little spinsters could live there until death. They did live there. Without plumbing and electricity until 1964 when the last Walker sister died. Will my kids find this interesting? Maybe. Maybe not. I love history. In the moment, you wonder if what you do and say is having an impact or leaving a legacy. After the fact, the trail is clear. You can see how we got from there to here.

I have uttered this statement a lot this week, “Kids, there were no cell phones or iPads then. Can you imagine?” They couldn’t.

Yeah, I know.

Well, the bullets worked for a little while.

Gatlinburg – City of Catastrophe and Adventure – Part 3 of One Thousand Million

A person’s experience in Gatlinburg depends on who they are with and what time of year they go. You can have vastly different trips based upon these two factors.

Wait. There is a third factor. Your Gatlinburg vacation can also depend on how much money you are willing to spend. Or not spend. There can be a great deal of difference between $0 and $5….MUCH greater than the literal five dollars. Don’t get tripped up in this math. Move on.

I was nine. We were going to travel to Gatlinburg the week after Christmas and we would be there on my ninth birthday. I was naive enough to think the planning of the trip had something to do with my birthday when in fact it did not. It was Christmas break, Missy. Get over yourself.

We drove up in a 1980 Buick Century. It was a 9 hour drive from Tallahassee. Unlike today’s spoiled brats (I’m including my own offspring in this…let’s not judge each other), the greatest technology we had was to twist the knob on the radio until a non-country station tuned in. The two songs I remember hearing over and over AND OVER were Sara by Fleetwood Mac and Longer by Dan Fogelberg. Longer was Number 1 on the charts. Fortunately, I loved both of these tunes and was pleased as punch to listen to them 159 times in 5 days. When that got old, we could try to make gassy noises with our arm pits. That was always a blast.

We stayed in a Best Western in downtown, located right above a quaint little babbling brook. I thought I was in the best place on earth. Truly. And as if it weren’t perfect enough, God sent snow. And one gangly little girl with hair like a worn-out Brillo pad was ecstatic beyond words.

Actually, we did manage to find words. They were deep and meaningful words. It’s snowing! It’s snowing! Can we go play in it? It’s snowing! Can we go? Please? Can we sled? We drove our parents crazy begging to get out on this beautiful snow while it was fresh and clean. And we begged them for some equipment. We needed something to slide down a mountain on.

How about a snow disc? Or a sled? A toboggan? Even a cookie sheet?

The parents on this story…shall we call them Spike and Fran…convinced us that there was a much better way to experience a snowy mountain.
A free way.
It was called pull discarded cardboard boxes out of the dumpster and make your own sleds. My brother and I were too dumb to know all the reasons why this was a scientific FAIL. We were too inexperienced to successfully argue for anything else. And we were too broke to step in and buy our own snow disc. We had no choice but to accept Plan B.

We drove around the outskirts of Gatlinburg looking for a hill that was clear enough for sledding but that wouldn’t empty out onto a road. There are a lot of spots that would be nothing shy of an Instant Death by Sledding. We didn’t want that. When we found our hill, we parked our car, pulled our Dumpster Board out of the trunk and began the long trek up a steep, snowy hill.

The farther from the road we got, the quieter it became. The trees and snow formed a silent blanket around us as we climbed. Our shoes and voices clamored against this hush that somehow it seemed we were violating.

Finally, we were at what we declared to be the top.
This was it.
We were going to sled to the bottom from here. Standing at the top, peering down on our path to glory, was my 9-year-old self, my brother, and my dad. My mother was waiting at the bottom. For what, I didn’t know.

Because it was my birthday, I was “allowed” to go first. At the time, I deemed this to be a winning lottery ticket. Now I believe it was a devious setup. Either way, it was my turn. I was first. And it was time.

I placed my Dumpster Board about 10 feet from where I planned to begin and then I climbed back up to the starting block. This was going to be T-O-T-A-L-L-Y awesome (insert strange accent). I had it pictured in my head as something that would someday wind up on Extreme Sports on the someday ESPN.
It was going to be that good.
I flashed a confident grin at my dad and brother. They smiled back at me and gave me the thumbs-up. Did they know? And then I took a running start. I whizzed toward that cardboard like I was being chased by hungry vampires…vampires that have never heard of Twilight and don’t have babies with shirtless werewolves. And at just the right moment, I leapt–sailing past birch trees, maple trees, and maybe even a couple of chestnuts–to land on the Dumpster Board.
My angle and velocity were stellar.
My landing was flawless.
I had decided at the last possible second to go for a head-first landing, so I could careen through the trees on my belly, directing the cardboard with my outstretched arms.

So I landed there on my belly.
And I went down that mountain–on my belly.
And as you might have already predicted, if your scientific prowess is greater than a 9-year-old’s, the cardboard stayed behind. It didn’t move even a little tiny bit. It sustained the blow of my scrawny little body and promptly sent me on my way.

Because wet cardboard doesn’t slide.

So I went all the way down that mountain on my stomach gathering snow in my pants as I went. Well, Stinkadoodle. Who’s brilliant idea was THIS? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t mine. When I arrived at the bottom, my mother greeted me by clapping with joy. Somehow she didn’t read the expression on my face. This wasn’t a lack of fiber in my diet. I was mad. And I stood up and threw the rowdiest temper tantrum I could possibly muster with the energy I had left.

Completely soaked, I had so much snow in my pants I looked like I was waiting in line for gastric bypass surgery. It was horrifying.

I don’t remember anything else about that day except that fateful trip down SnowPants Mountain. I don’t remember if my dad and brother braved their way down, too, or if I ever went back up. I do remember crying. A lot. Over cardboard. And my wet underpants.

There’s a reason they don’t make snow discs out of paper products.

And I remember we went pretty much straight to a store to spend $5 on a snow disc.
Made of plastic.

That one worked a whole lot better.
$5 made all the difference between Kill me and ROCK ON. Think about that the next time you pull an old UPS box out of the trash while on vacation.