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When Pandemic Life Gives You Lemons, You Take ThemShari Bender
I fell in love with the name (on the cover of my Marshall Tucker Band record album) when I was sixteen and decided I’d use it if I ever had a daughter.
Twenty years later I fulfilled that promise when our Cassady came into the world.
Like her name, Cassady, our left-handed firstborn, has been a unique child, breaking any and every mold created for her. Early on I knew she was more like me than I cared to admit. Personable, funny, sensitive and compassionate, she also has her compulsions. Everything has to be exactly right in her world.
We learned this firsthand during the toddler years when she would freak out if we served her food on a paper plate with letters printed on it. She would insist (loudly) “No ABCs!” Her father and I got good at cutting the Dixie logo off before handing the plate to her.
I tried my hand at homeschooling for a couple of years when she was five and six but it abruptly ended one spring day when a complex math problem caused an avalanche of tears, sending the No. 2 pencil flying across the room. In that moment I knew I was as done as she was.
Patience wasn’t her strong suit, as we were reminded when she was six and we took her skiing for the first time. After several failed attempts on the bunny slope, she flung herself down, kicking and yelling “I hate this snow!” And yet, she didn’t give up. Years later Cassady can navigate the slopes with finesse.
This determined, strong-willed daughter of ours would someday be a great leader, we just knew. She simply had to chart her own course.
As a high school senior, she landed a leading role in “Peter Pan” and mesmerized us with the talent she displayed as Tinkerbell. Her natural poise and grace was evident as she walked down runways in fashion shows — an interest that played into her decision to pursue a Fashion Merchandising degree.
Fast forward many years and her dad and I once again watch with admiration, this time as she marches down the aisle to take hold of the college diploma she worked so hard for, holding down two jobs while taking a full course load. We exchange smiles, remembering all the stories — how her classmates always encouraged her to be the one to appeal to the teacher for extended deadlines, and the time she successfully rallied her classmates to sign up for a needed summer intensive class that would only be offered if ten students registered, or when a professor asked for her feedback on what could make the class more beneficial and interesting.
For most 22-year-olds, graduation would be enough, but in just a few more months Cassady will walk down another aisle and share vows with a fine young man who loves her dearly. I actually met Jimmy first when we sang together in the church choir. I showed him a picture of my daughter and the rest is history. After a three year courtship, they were engaged last fall and will be married in September in a barn nestled up against the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Jimmy is a business owner who graduated from the same local university with his MBA a year ago. He adores our daughter and takes exceptional care of her, making this transition much easier for her father and me.
So here we are, in a brief early summer lull, trying to take it all in. The day after Cassady’s graduation our son left for a backpacking trip in Europe, so there are only three at the table in our home. Soon we will set only two places. Cassady’s room will be quiet and dark. Her late night stomping down the hallway will be no more. (We never quite figured that one out, with her petite hundred pound frame.) Life will be different indeed.
I’m not sure we are fully prepared for all the changes which lie ahead and don’t think we really know what to expect, but we will roll with it all somehow. We didn’t raise these children to keep them with us but to send them out and wait in anticipation for what marks on this world they will make.
No matter where she goes in life, we’re confident Cassady will be a world changer and we’ll be cheering her on from the sidelines. It happened just like I always heard it would. Our little girl grew up.