When I heard the loud mufflers of the old blue Chevy truck backing our boat into the driveway, I stepped outside to welcome the skiers home. What I found on my front porch was a very small, very cute girl in a bikini top and shorts, awkwardly waiting for Buddy to introduce her to his mother. I was not used to seeing small, cute, bikini-clad strangers on my front porch. And thankfully I’m still not.
That was the day that my tiny daughter-in-law bounced, flipped, and sprung into my life. She was 18 years old. Today she is 27. It’s hard to believe that I’ve known her for 9 years. It’s also hard to believe that I fell in love with her. You don’t just start dating my son and expect me to take their word that this girl is perfect. In what alternative universe is that going to happen?
Why Buddy chose a cheerleader/gymnast to fall in love with I’ll never know. It made perfect sense, as he was always an athlete and the athletes go for the cheerleaders, right? But boys are supposed to choose someone like their own mothers, right? Buddy’s mother was nowhere close to 5 feet tall, or a size 4 ½ shoe, or a size 3 ½ ring for that matter. I am neither perky nor vivacious. My shoes don’t match my purse and the heels are never over 2”. The only similarity between a cheerleader and myself is that I cheer for my sons when they are competing. And also when they’re not competing. Maybe that’s the kinship we share. Bree has always been in love with Buddy and always will be. She recognizes his strengths and celebrates them. She calls me when he does something magnificent and also when he says something momentous. (It has happened.) She knows what I need to hear from Buddy and about Buddy. She supported him while he was in grad school after they married 3 years ago until he got his first real engineering job. She does not support his antics when they turn stupid and for that I’m also grateful.
You don’t add to the Burks family without paying your dues. Bree seemed to know this. She patiently waited for her hazing from all of the family members and accomplished this with grace. She did this by going hunting with Buddy even though the thought of a dead animal made her physically sick, learning to shoot a pistol and rifle, riding a bicycle off a rickety ramp into our pond, and wading through the drama of everyday life with us…like a champ. As our resident nurse, she is the go-to guy for all of our health issues and advice. If she doesn’t know the answer, she will flip through her mental Rolodex and find out who does.
This fateful day in history, 9/11, not only marks a tragic event in American life but a wonderful event in our own. Bree Leslie Burks was born for a purpose. One of those purposes was to make our family complete. But most importantly, to make Bud’s life complete. Andrea and I were always amazed that at the height of Bud’s silliness or amazing comedic timing, Bree can sit and read a magazine and not even look up at him. Well, Bud needs that. Because if his wife treated him as we do, then he would never have grown up. He has definitely been sharpened by his fairy-sized wife, who calls herself my tiny daughter. She has tamed a giant by encouraging him, cheering him on, and sometimes even laughing.
Bree, these last few years have taught me how incredibly lucky I am. Sometimes when I am driving down the road, frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed, I think about how you care for me, how you pray for me and how you love me like a real mom. That means more to me than you’ll ever know. We are very different in some ways, but alike where it counts. I am SO PROUD of you! And I know that if you and Bud have a tiny son and a giant daughter that they will indeed be blessed by the best mom they could ever have. Happy Birthday, I love you!