-25-

It started with an oatmeal cream pie and a glass of chocolate milk. At least that’s what she claims.

She ate his favorite snack every day for a year — 8th grade — trying to get him to notice her.

He didn’t. So she had to take the initiative herself, asking him to go on a hay ride. December 3rd, she recounts off the top of her head, some 30 years later. Some days you just don’t forget.

With only one bump in the road, the summer where he wanted to watch Atlanta Braves baseball and didn’t have time for a girlfriend — at least that’s what she claims — the rest was, as they say, history.

The pair went to different colleges after graduating high school. He went to Chapel Hill, while she went down Highway 74 to Charlotte. That didn’t last long. She enrolled at UNC soon.

And after four years of college they wed at Eastside Baptist, her home church that he started going to as the relationship had progressed. Her father walked her down the aisle, and the soon-to-be-husband smiled from the front of the room under his mustache. They kissed, danced, threw the bouquet, ate some cake. To Disney World they went.

A few years passed and then came David Jr. They were 28 on that March afternoon. He was a cone head of a baby with the bluest of eyes. They held and marveled at God’s creation. He was theirs.

He would walk and talk like his father, share a passion for sports and writing. He would favor his mother, with his nose and thin hair, share a passion for reading and a penchant to cry.

Then came Michael. They were 31 on that January evening. He had a head of blonde hair, and an infectious smile. They held and marveled at God’s creation. He was theirs. This time around, David Ray waited in the wings. He had a new friend. And he was certainly getting too much attention. (Some things never change.)

He would favor his father, thick hair and a set of dimples pulled from a magazine. He would spoil his mother rotten, quick to tickle and the fastest to make her double over in laughter.

Then there was Kathryn Rose, they would call her Katie. They were 36 on the August midnight. They held and marveled at God’s creation. She was theirs. This time there were two big brothers anticipating the arrival. She had a red birthmark that scared them, and those red cheeks. Truly, a rose.

She was her mother’s child, undoubtedly. Her brown hair and charming smile. And that giggle. A ray of sunshine to all she came in contact with. She would be a daddy’s girl, too, though, often found asleep on his lap or in a tickle fight.

Surely there were tough, arduous moments along the way, moments that all couples go through, but you would never know it. Not with them. Mom doesn’t complain about dad’s snoring — brutal, in every sense of the word — and dad doesn’t complain about mom’s dancing — which was passed down to her oldest son. Dad wakes mom up when she falls asleep on the couch during “Game of Thrones,” and explains what she missed. Mom takes dad’s side when the kids make fun of him. There is a sense that where one ends, the other begins.

As parents, they are flawless. The example to end all examples. What she can’t do, he can. And what he can’t, she can. A tough job, guiding three children, but for them, an art. A seamless portrait. A city skyline. A graceful waltz.

They have sat through every ball game, and coached quite a few. They have listened to hours of screeching instrument practice, and paid for the lessons desperately needed. They have loved unconditionally, and never thought twice.

Now the two sit together. Twenty-five years removed from that day at Eastside Baptist. Thirty-three if you go all the way back to that December hay ride.

The three children in between them sit, 20, 17, and 12. On the precipice of great heights in life. The oldest, two years from going into the “real world.” The middle child, a year away from graduating high school. The baby, a few months from being a teenager.

For their children there will be times of darkness, sorrow, and stress, as the mountain bluffs sprout skyward into deafening clouds. Darkness will prod and jab, and the world will certainly overwhelm and inundate them at times.

Luckily, in mom and dad, there are two pillars of love and bastions of strength alongside them. Keeping their distance, but watching over them earnestly.

And to think it all began with an oatmeal cream pie and a glass of chocolate milk.

-David Ray

 

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