The girls were both taking showers to get ready for school. I had already browned a pan of Lil' Smokies and was allowing the freshly mixed batter to sit and rise (it makes for super fluffy pancakes). As I stood there at the stove in my ex-wife's house, pouring the fluffy mixture into a pre-heated skillet, my mind raced back to the spacious kitchen at 12983 Quarterback Lane where I used to prepare this same breakfast staple on a ceramic top, stainless steel range. My girls were much younger then--Makenna in first grade and MK repeating 3rd (she swears it was second, but I think I remember). Those were the mornings I'd be up early, starting the coffee for my wife and I, packing lunches with love note napkins and mixing that pancake batter. As this morning's first pancake was sizzling on the hot skillet, I reached for a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and my eyes were full of happy tears over the years of memories making this same morning treat for my sweets.
As I sprinkled in more than a dozen chocolate chips, I welled up with gratitude for the years I've enjoyed being the girls "special daddy." Sorta like the tears I'm fighting back now. Nothing in all my life has made me as happy/fulfilled as being a dad to two precious girls. I used to walk them three blocks to school on crisp autumn mornings in Indiana. Walking back, sometimes with our family dog(s), I was always wearing a smile...happy in the thought I'd just made the best investment of a lifetime. Now, my girls are much older and I hope they've learned to appreciate the investment. Makenna has always told me that the secret ingredient in all of my cooking is LOVE. And she would be right. The pancakes I made this morning--and every time I've made them on countless school mornings, birthdays and weekends--were made that way. When I told her that as she joined me stove-side this morning, Makenna fought back tears, too. I think she saw the misty emotion in my eyes.
That nostalgic feeling carried over to my trip home from the insurance agency, where I had to make another installment on my auto insurance. Driving up St. Augustine to Madison, I decided to pull in front of the Claude Pepper Building into the loading zone where I used to pick up the girls' mother from work after leaving my office on campus. I worked in that building for a short while, too, so I was well acquainted with the Eatz Cafe' in the lobby level atrium. I wasn't used to the new "check in" procedures, but I signed in and went through new security doors to reach the empty atrium dining area. I purchased some scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes and sausage gravy for around $4 and sat there eating alone...just me and my memories. The ladies in Tracy's office threw us a baby shower for Merikathryn in that atrium, just a few feet from where I was eating breakfast. That was in 2001 when MK was still Merikathryn and such a cute little baby. No, I didn't cry inside the Pepper Building, but I certainly felt this blog post coming on.
I called Tracy after I had left to tell her of my fond memories. She was tied up in an out-of-town training workshop, so I just told her to read this post when she had time.
Our girls have given us many years of happy memories. MK's adoption 14 years ago still seems like a recent one. Then again, it seems a million lightyears away. As I looked at her this morning, double backpacks, embarking on another day in 8th grade, I was amazed at what a beautiful young lady she has become, seemingly overnight. Well, that does it for this entry. Hope you've enjoyed walking with me down memory lane. :)