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University of Georgia

Another Last, First Day

My Sweet Cooper,

Your big adventure begins today. It’s a momentous day for the little girl who loves shoes, jewelry and all things girly. (Even your guinea pig is named Sparkles.) You’ve anticipated this day all summer long, maybe longer. Your first day of Kindergarten.

You call me Aunt Diffy. I call you my Sweet Coop-A-Loop, a name Carter and your dad came up with before you were born.

But I never know exactly how to reference you, when I’m (frequently) telling others about you. You’re my nephew’s baby girl. My brother’s granddaughter. Are you my Grand-Niece, my Great-Niece? You’re both grand, and great, in my eyes.

Do you see these First Day of Kindergarten photos your mommy and daddy shared? Just look at the joy in your eyes, the mischief in your grin, the sweetness of your countenance and the confidence of your intellect. You are truly grand, and really great, my sweet Coop.

I’ve also looked forward to this day, because you’ve looked forward to it. But I’ve felt some apprehension, too. And not just because your great-granddad, Papa Grady, says “Cooper seems to be having birthdays faster than the rest of them”.

It’s because you’re leaving a safe environment and stepping into a world that doesn’t always include the rest of us.

You’re ready for it. I’m not.

School is a magical place. But it’s also a brutal place.

One of my prayers for you Coop-A-Loop, as you begin your educational journey, is that no one ever steals your joy. Already, you know you are surrounded by an army of people who love you. And we’ll always be with you, even when you don’t see us. Even when we’re gone. But will you remember how much you’re loved, on the days that aren’t so lovely?

I hope so. I pray so

When the day comes that you encounter a “mean girl”, and you will encounter one… probably before you finish kindergarten … I hope you dig deep, and allow the defiant spirit of your great-grandmothers to rise up in you. You have some tough, strong grandmothers.

On the day you encounter a bully, I hope you feel the love of your family, your warriors, surrounding you, encouraging you to march on. Head up, eyes focused, face forward.

I hope you understand that the meanness of others has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with jealousy… and the insecurities of the one hurling the dart. I pray those word-darts never hit their target. But if they strike, I hope they slide off like hot butter on Teflon.

I pray you’re able to see past the mean exterior of anyone who may be lonely or unloved, and extend a hand of friendship.

My prayer is that you, Carter, and children around the world, have a safe school year. Every year.

May lifelong friendships begin today.

PS, let’s check back here thirteen years from now. #touchdownGeorgia! ♥️🖤

Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24

The Bulldog’s #1 Fan

The Dawgs had an unseen assist in the Rose Bowl.

I met Pam Bowman when I was a Delta Delta Delta pledge, a hundred or more lifetimes ago. Bowman, as the Sisters called her, was to be feared. According to the Sisters, she would rip you to shreds if you messed up, and no infraction went unseen:  failed a test, partied too much, didn’t party enough, went out with the wrong guy, behaved in ways unbecoming to the Sisterhood. Whatever it was, Bowman would know, she would deal with you, and it would not be pretty.

Each pledge was granted a meeting with her, I don’t remember it being an optional encounter, but maybe it was. Either way, the meeting was to learn more about what was expected of us, academically and socially, as Tri Delta pledges. I had heard of her before I met her, and what I heard would make Scarlet O’Hara quake in her riding boots. I was expecting to meet Cinderella’s evil stepmother’s younger sister. Or Snow White’s evil Queen.
My appointed time arrived, and I braced myself before entering the meeting room. To my surprise, there was no evil queen in there. What I found was a beautiful, statuesque blonde, a bright, friendly smile, and Southern grace. She was a straight shooter, no doubt. But I respected and appreciated that about her, immediately.

My second year, I transferred to an out of state school, and I never came across Pam again. Not until Social Media became a thing. There are some good things about facebook, and reconnecting with old friends is one of the good things.

Pam and I became “Facebook Friends” five or six years ago. I have loved catching up with her, I had thought of her often over the years and wondered how she had fared in life. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her family through her stories and photos. I especially loved hearing about her husband’s love of the Georgia Bulldogs. She has some good stories. Funny stories. But last year, Chip, Pam’s husband, suddenly, without warning, passed away.
This past fall, Pam mentioned him often, during Georgia’s march to the West Coast and the Rose Bowl. On New Year’s Eve, the eve of the Rose Bowl, she posted something that is worthy of print.

From Pam, December 31, 2017 / 10:52AM

“As many of you know my husband, Chip passed away this year from a heart attack and UGA Dawg cancer. He lived his entire life with a severe case of stage four Dawg cancer. One good thing, even though there was not a cure for Dawg cancer, there was treatment. He knew EVERYTHING there was to know about the Dawg football program from way back in the day until the day he died. One of the worst cases of Dawg cancer I have ever seen. Plus he knew every stat about every UGA sports team. He even watched old games. He saved those games. That’s bad. If they’d had a poker team, he would have even known about that program and stats as well. It was incredible. An extremely bright man. For the family, the aftereffects of a Dawg chemo treatment was either real nasty or real good. If they won, he was ecstatic. If they lost, he would not speak to anyone for almost a week. No kidding. If they played so so or not up to their potential, he didn’t have very much enthusiasm. He hung in there whether the Dawgs had a good or bad season for 59 years. Anyone that knew Chip, was well aware of the fact he did not talk much. To know him was to love him. He was a very quiet and introspective person. One of those type of people, that when he did talk, you’d jerk your head around in disbelief and listen. I spoke more than enough for the both of us anyway. One thing he always said was that the year he died, the Dawgs would win the National Championship. Just to make him mad. Me, Matthew  and Kathleen knew when the season started, this would be the year. Come on DAWGS. #godawgs #UGAgrad #forchopper #forchipprengaman ”

 

By the way, the University of Georgia won the Rose Bowl. #GoDawgs 

Do it one more time, on January 8, 2018.  #forChipPrengaman

 

 

 

The Last, First Day

Several times over the last two weeks, family and friends have documented their children’s first day of school and posted their photos on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed viewing the First Day photos of their children and grandchildren: candid and posed shots of excited expressions, book bags full of new things, stories of tears shed (parent and child). All of it took me back to my own children’s First Days …Looking at the pictures, I could just about smell new Crayola’s and crisp, clean sheets of paper. Those days ended much too soon for my liking. Yet, other than a little reminiscing, I didn’t think too much about the start of the new school year. Not until yesterday, when my niece Rebecca shared a photo of my great-nephew Carter walking away from her and into his school for his first day of four-year-old Pre-K. It’s a sweet, wonderful photo of our little man proudly and independently taking long, confident strides down a long walkway; a strong, right-handed grip on his lunchbox.

But I saw more.

The photograph provoked an emotion I had not expected. It stopped me in my tracks. Did Rebecca see what I saw? Perhaps, but probably not fully, not yet. How could I tell her what she had actually captured? Should I try to explain what I saw? Sweet, brilliant, handsome little Carter-Man was in the photo, for sure. But there was an older boy there as well. And a young man.

Aug22 031
The older boy held a set of car keys firmly in his hand. The young man walked with casual determination on foreign soil. Both had their backs to the camera. All three were Carter. But they could have been anyone’s son. Or daughter.

In reality, the older two Carters’ were only visible to my mind’s eye, but I saw them clearly. Sixteen year-old Carter. Twenty-two year-old Carter. Time happens that quickly, it really does. Not so much when you’re in the middle of it; during the living of it. In its present form, time seems to dawdle; move sluggishly. It’s after the moment, not immediately after, but later, that you realize how quickly it slipped away from you.

All day I thought of Carter’s photo. I thought of his mommy watching him walk away and I remembered what that felt like. Without being told, I knew she had watched him until he was out of her sight; watching his back… should he need her. I thought of how there will be other days like this, when she and Justin, Carter’s dad, will watch his back as he walks with great anticipation towards future things: cars, airplanes, girls. A bride. Perhaps they’ll watch with Bulldog pride as he walks toward the same revered arches they once walked through; wave goodbye to his back as he moves to another state. And always, they’ll be watching until he’s out of sight, watching his back…just in case he needs them. That’s what parents do…

I shared Rebecca’s photo with a friend and told him how it made me feel. He said he understood: “I felt the same way when I saw this photo of Jon”, he said.

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We have no experience at parenting until we are parents. That’s how it is….we’re clueless in the beginning and for many years thereafter. We’re amateurs….the most intense on the job training you can imagine…for the most important work you will ever do. We make mistakes, because we know no better. In the beginning, we don’t understand how fleeting a span of eighteen years actually is. We don’t realize how abruptly those little arms will outgrow our own; until they do.

I know Rebecca and Justin give lots of hugs and kisses to Carter and his baby sister, Cooper. Most young parents do. Still, to them and all parents, I would give this advice: Give more hugs…lots more. Read more books together. Give longer back scratches. Snuggle longer. Because those little ones aren’t little for long. And one day, a day that will sneak up on you, you’ll be experiencing your last, first school day.

GarrettCostaRica

Addendum:

Carter’s First Day of Kindergarten, August 2014.


Carter’s First Day of First Grade, August 2015.

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Carter’s First day of Second Grade. 8/10/2016

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Little Sis loving the walk with her big brother.  8/10/2016

He wouldn’t allow his mom to walk him in today. Our sweet Carter-Man is growing up.

First day of 4th grade. 8/10/18

My the Lord bless you and keep you, may He turn His face towards you, and shine His face upon yours, everyday. I pray He is gracious to you, Carter. May He give you peace, and protect you, all the days of your life.

♥️, Aunt Diffy

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