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This Mother’s Day, I’ve received the gift

It was not love at first sight when I caught a glimpse of that freckle-faced, four-eyed sophomore architecture student at Mississippi State University.

It was more like love at first sound that autumn day more than 20 years ago.

Maybe it was her inquisitiveness or her confident attitude. Maybe it was her enthusiasm. Maybe it was a combination of all three. Whatever it was, when she addressed the crowd of a hundred or so college students crammed into the school auditorium that day there was an instant attraction.

Some might have identified it as love. If it was, I had no clue. As a nervous freshman I only knew that I wanted to know more about this Natchez girl.

I couldn’t see into the future, and if I did the vision might have been enough to scare me away. I didn’t see myself as a dad and certainly did not see this girl as a wife and mother.

Even as our relationship blossomed, marriage and parenthood were only vague points of conversation — more to be feared because of the potential both had to redirect careers and personal goals.

We were going to be architects, professionals. Big city skyscrapers and multi-million dollar construction projects awaited, not picket fences and dirty diapers.

As our relationship continued, there was one characteristic in my future wife that never ceased to amaze me — her ability to attract and inspire children.

Whether it was my first cousin, a nephew or just one of our friends’ children, all were brought under her spell.

Maybe it was because she got on her hands and knees. She got down to their level. Maybe it was because she refused to talk with “cootchie coos.” She talked to them like she talked to adults. She didn’t give commands. She talked with questions.

Those moments were the first inklings of how fortunate I really was to be, even though marriage and family seemed years away.

“Lucky me,” I thought many times, watching my then-girlfriend use her talents to soothe a crying child or fill a toddler’s imagination with excitement and wonder. It was a set of skills I did not possess.

It took a few years, but nearly two decades after watching my wife work her magic with other children, I am now watching her do so with our own child.

Nearing his first birthday, Gibson follows his mom around with admiration and joy.

Just like the moments with other children before we were married, my wife transforms life for our little son into a world of wonder and imagination.

She brings life to bathtub toys and stuffed animals, makes eating time an adventure and turns his every waking moment into a learning experience.

This Mother’s Day I will think back to those days when I first heard my wife’s voice in a time and place where love, marriage and family seemed unlikely. Then I will look at my wife and son.

Whether it is playing in the bathtub, digging in the garden or enjoying an afternoon stroll, Gibson looks back at his mom with more than admiration these days. There is a connection.

Gibson knows a good mom when he sees one. That’s given both of us all the reason to love her even more than I ever knew was possible.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.

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