Family is who you choose. Not who you were born to. Common fact known by those of us who are happily married. We chose this person to be our family. That is how I ended up with my wonderful husband, Keith Miller. 17 years ago, my son and I were slogging through my attempt at single parenthood, my MORE than full time job, NO social life, facing my sons teen aged years with just me to figure it out. This situation is something that many of you have faced or are facing now.
You understand I was a little worried and really lonely.
Then one day… I see this young man working on the landscaping at my neighbors house next door. He had on a pair of hiking shorts and work boots and the sun was setting behind him. He had curly blond hair and the sun just lit it up like a halo around his head. It was another 6 months before I really met him. 10 months after that we were married. I’ve never looked back with any thought that what I chose, or more importantly… what chose me that day, was a mistake. He and I and my son Nathaniel, we became family. We are family today. Tempered by life and its challenges, but stronger because we faced them together. We don’t pretend with each other, we tell the truth, we deal with the consequences. It makes us love each other more, and respect each other deeply. Often it is not easy, often it is “knee walking, praying to God” HARD! But we do it and I am so very grateful that I have someone who sees the real me and loves me for who I am. He does the same for my son. They are best friends and I am so very grateful for that.
What I got that day was the best person that could have happened to me.
There are a few other people that I am so very grateful for, people that somehow by some miracle or some great design that I cannot see, were chosen to be my family. This is not random, it cannot be. My best friend through all my adult life, my sister, my confidant, the one person who I can tell anything to is Shelly Baughman. She and I were meant to be friends and sisters.
The first time I remember seeing her was 33 years ago, I was 23 years old. I had been lying in bed, VASTLY pregnant and sick with toxemia. All the windows were open in my tiny 900 square foot house, and the breeze was blowing the warm spring air into the room as I lay there listening to the children play across the street at the elementary school. Then I heard someone talking on my front porch. I waddled into the living room to see who it was, pulled open the front door, 2 women about my age were standing there, talking about the color my house was painted. It was Shelly and her friend Rosalie.
The 2nd time, I came into contact with her, it was actually her daughter and husband I met at Vanderbilt Childrens Hematology clinic when my son was 3. Sally, her daughter started playing with my son and a big green stuffed frog. I remember her laughter and how delighted Nathaniel was with her. He was sick with Leukemia. Sally was being treated for Leukemia also. Steve, her father told me they were from Murfreesboro, where we lived. I didn’t actually realize the connection.
The 3rd time I came into contact with them, about 6 months later, was in the bathroom at clinic, Shelly was holding Sally’s head while she threw up in the bathroom. I thought Shelly looked familar, I still didn’t realize the connection. Then a few months after that Sally left her book satchel at clinic and the nurses knew we were both from Murfreesboro. I took the satchel by their house on my way home, they lived on the street behind our house.
The fourth time I met her, I walked into the Art and Frame shop that was my first real job since the birth of my son, Shelly was standing there, sweeping the floor, she laughed and said,”I give up, I guess we just need to be friends.” We have been since that day. We had a lot to talk about, we still do, I try not to call her every day, but I want to.
There is another person that is my family. I’ve loved him since the moment I met him 11 years ago. He is the one person I know I could call for any reason…. say if I needed some help in hiding a body. He is “ON MY SIDE”! Like, no matter what. That’s a good friend. He’d also make sure I got a good lawyer if the need arose. I’m never going to need help hiding a body but its good to know its there. He’s my best boyfriend in the world, Nick Nichols, from the great state of Alabama and ALL that that implies. Yes, we are polar opposite, politics wise, yes we argue about just those things. Yes, he makes me madder than a hornet, sometimes on purpose, but he is my “Southern Gentleman Friend” and I love him with a deep and abiding respect for who he is and how clearly he see’s me. He is my family. I am his family. We did not choose this, it was chosen for us. We have cried and laughed together so often, it feels like we have know each other all our lives. Maybe we have.
And most importantly, my son Nathaniel Davis, the love of my life, the one person who made me realize what family really was. He is the reason I breath every day. He is my gift, he chose me and I chose him long before I ever knew I would have a son. It has been an incredible journey. I never could have imagined I could feel this wealth of love for any one person, he opened my heart. My need for his happiness became so much more important than even my need for my own. Looking back I see that everything I have ever endured in pain or in happiness has prepared me for him. Dear Son, you have given me insight, you have given me strength by showing me yours, you have made me grateful for each day on this earth that I get to be your mother and your friend.
And lastly…but not least, but certainly shortest, my hound dog, Shelby Lou, her highness, Schoochie La Loochie, who protects me each night while I sleep, and makes me smile each and every day. She is my little Beagle Bundle of Joy! I found her and she found me one fall day in Gatlinburg, when I was working and living over there. She was the funkiest smelling adorable dog I had ever seen. By the second night in my tiny travel trailer she had climbed up on my bed and into my heart.
These people and 1 hound dog are my gifts this Holiday Season. I don’t need presents under the tree. I have Love. I have Family. I am so very gratitude filled by these wonderful souls that I get to call family that it spills out of my eyes and runs down my cheeks.
Merry Christmas Friends, thank you for letting me share.