This time of year is always a special time at our household. With six kids from 5 up to 16, you get all different ranges of emotions when it comes time to open up gifts. It is our youngest that we have the most fun watching. Nothing beats the joy in their expressions as they get the gifts that they wanted or sometimes the gifts that weren't even on their lists. So it is to this I say enjoy being a kid. I reflect on everything that my kids just experienced and say “Don’t be in a rush to grow up.”
Some day, you may look back on your life and be able to pinpoint the day that you grew up. I have a distinct memory as to when that happened to me on two accounts.. I can’t pinpoint the exact year, but I remember it well. Christmas at my Grammy’s. The time came for all of us kids to start opening gifts, youngest to oldest of course. Now I was no longer the youngest, but was still at the front of the line in terms of everyone else. My cousin and I always opened together since we were just 1 year apart. The other gifts I got that year are all but a fuzzy memory. It was the one gift that we both got from our Grammy that haunts me still to this day. I am pretty positive that I did not put this on my Christmas list that year, but there it was staring directly at me when the wrapping paper hit the floor. Panic set in as I tried to move on, but no, everyone had to enjoy this moment of laughter. All my great aunts and great uncles, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings and parents would not let me live this one down. Incredible hulk underoos. As if getting underwear for Christmas would not have been bad enough, my grammy had to take it to a completely new level. Tighty whities would have been so much easier to deal with. I don’t even think I liked the incredible hulk. He was one bad dude, but way too many anger issues for me. That Christmas I grew up, or should I say grew out of little kids clothing. Fast forward a few years and the next time I grew up was after my Grammy passed away. My Grammy was always planning for Christmas. It seemed like this was truly her holiday. After she had passed away, we were given Christmas gifts that she had already bought and were stored up in her attic. You always wanted to be on her good side. I remember the huge box that my parents gave to me. This would be the one present that my Grammy didn’t get to experience me opening up. It was the epic Star Wars AT-AT. What sticks out to me most about this is that it is the last toy that I remember getting as a kid. From my Grammy that planned well in advance. Some of you are fortunate to know all your grandparents. My grandparents on my mom’s side were Dada and Nana and on my dad’s side it was Pop Pop and Grammy. Nana passed away before I was born and Dada passed away when I was 15. My Pop Pop passed away when I was just 8. I have a few memories of him, but think that I was too young to really understand what death was. My Grammy passed away in September of 1981 when I was 10. I have many fond memories of spending the night over at Grammy’s playing Uno against her and far too many times her letting me win. Catching my first fish by myself in the stream that ran by her house. Painting her porch, cutting her backyard on the 1970 Cub cadet tractor which is still in my garage. Perspective is always a funny thing. At the time her backyard seemed like 3 football fields and the tractor was enormous. Now I feel over sized when I cut my grass with it. Now the cellar basement, how much did that place haunt me when I was little. Always damp and was never short of daddy long legged spiders. It is her death that stuck with me though. When I see that AT-AT(which I still have), to me it is the time which I think I was forced to grow up. It reminds me of that rough September when I lost someone that I loved.
Now I look at my youngest daughter Tabitha. She always smiles when I ask her if she is my little girl. I then ask if she will always be my little girl, to which she replies yes. I know someday, and far too soon she will be a young lady and ready to move out on her own, but for right now I don’t want her to grow up. Sometimes we are forced to grow up dealing with whatever life throws at us, but too often kids are in a hurry to grow up. To them I say enjoy high school. You only get four years here at Cherokee. Where ever you are at you only get one 2019/20 year. You only get one Indoor Track 2020 season. Make the most of the four years you are here and hopefully make friendships that will long outlast your high school days. In terms of athletics, don’t waste the four years you get to compete. For some your athletic career will end upon graduation. Some may move on to collegiate athletics, and some will be fortunate to compete all the years you are in school, but those are few and far between. Priorities change, team environments change, and sometimes you have to make the hard choices in life and hang up those spikes. For now, lace them up, keep training and keep striving to do something that is far beyond what you ever imagined you could do. Enjoy where you are at in life and don’t be in a rush to grow up too fast.