While cleaning out a basement full of twenty-plus years of things is a chore, it can also yield some surprises that make you smile and for sure make your day. Yesterday, while sorting through things and deciding what to keep, what to throw out, what to sell on the garage sale, and what to give away, I came across this:
That's my little Hunca Munca, otherwise known as Jenna. She's our younger daughter - the one that I used to describe as 'determined.' Fellow parents will recognize that adjective as a dressed-up version of strong-willed. 'Spirited' worked rather well, too. And that she is, as she has been from Day One.
I always looked on the positive side of things when she was growing up and declared to everyone that her determination would serve her well someday. Oh, it did that in ways that we won't go into here and are all part of growing up, but it has also enabled her to live a life that has been full and rich and exciting for both her and those who love her.
Jenna was a good student, always wanting to get her studying and assignments done as soon as possible. She reasoned that she could enjoy doing the things she wanted to do so much better with schoolwork out of the way.
And those things she enjoyed? Softball, basketball, volleyball, golf, her menagerie of animals over the years, and being her dad's shadow working in the yard. Jenna loved to mow the grass. She liked to clean house too, bless her heart.
Her sports was where she was a real standout. She was a pitcher and a darn good one too, winning several awards over the years. There were a couple of write-ups featuring her in two different newspapers and she got an offer from a college to come and play softball for them. She was a decent basketball player too, making the All-County Team her senior year of high school and there was an offer from a small college here in Ohio.
But she chose to play golf. When she was a freshman in high school, her older sister Kara was a senior. They were both on the girls' golf team and they went to state that year (1997). What a thrill for them as sisters and for us as parents to go to Columbus together as a family. The boys' team also made it to state at the same time, and as coincidence would have it, their boyfriends played on that team. It doesn't get much better than that when you're fifteen.
The University of Findlay offered her a chance to play golf for them, and being a Division II school, that meant she would have to sign a letter of intent. For a couple of different reasons (not related to golf), Jenna chose not to take them up on their offer, and instead decided to go to Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana. She played all four years there as a Spartan, and we thoroughly enjoyed following her around various golf courses in four different states. She also got her degree in Athletic Training there (ATC).
We miss those years. All of them, all the way back to the beginning, and finding this handmade card with her second-grade picture on it makes me want to go back in time just for a little while. But life goes on - too quickly - and now we're preparing for her wedding next May. Life with Jenna is still exciting.
Oh, back to the card. On the inside, she declares her love for me, over and over. There is a coupon book with each page good for a favor from her: help wash the car, a big bear hug, put toys away, make the bed, help with the dishes, and one that says "Queen For a Day." I still wonder what that one means.
And look what else there is. Seeds! They're packaged for 1991 and are for Double Mixed Balsam. My experience with growing these for the last two years is that I'm willing to bet my Felco pruners that those seeds are still good and will grow for me when I plant them next summer.
Why didn't I plant them back in 1991? I wasn't a gardener then. I didn't have the time nor the energy for such things. I was working at least three days a week and raising two daughters and trying to keep a decent house. Back then, I sometimes didn't plant a single flower in the spring. We would put out corn and maybe green beans, but I really didn't care much for digging around in the dirt.
But times change, and so do people. Finding this card made me smile for so many reasons. Jenna was telling me all over again - in Crayola® crayons - that she loved me. I saw her sweet little face and remembered the days when her biggest concern was whether or not Mom and Dad would ever let her get a dog. (You've seen Simba.) And while it took 16 years for me to fully appreciate the gift, she gave me seeds for the garden I finally grow.
Thanks for the memories, Jenna. I love you, too.