Love Letters: Little Rock Family's First Editor Looks Back
It was a warm, sticky summer evening, and my daughter, Drew, 23, called and invited me to join her at Buffalo Grill for a cold beer after work. Her best friend of 20 years, Lucia, joined us, as did Lu’s mom. The talk, of course, turned to Lucia’s upcoming wedding. Drew was asked to be the maid of honor and there was much to discuss. A wedding…hard to believe.
Drew and Lu were three years old when I edited the first Kids Kalendar that soon morphed into Kids! and then Little Rock Family. I had the true pleasure and privilege of writing a column for the publication for the first five years of its existence—roughly 60 dispatches from my office desk, many written very late at night.
Often Drew would wake and wander into my office, rubbing her eyes against the light. With her, she’d drag a blanket, a pillow and her stuffed rabbit Sarah, and lie down on the carpeted floor at my feet to fall back asleep. When I would finally get the words right, I’d nudge her awake and carry her back to her bedroom.
Sleepily, she would ask, “Did you finish your story, Momma?”
“Yes, darling, I sure did. Thanks for keeping me company.”
At Buffalo Grill, over a second round of brews, Drew asked how this column is coming. She knew that I had been invited to write the piece as part of the magazine’s look back over its first 20 years. I could almost hear her saying, “Did you finish your story, Momma?”
Before answering, I leaned back in my chair. The frosty beer mug dripped cold, wet spots on my work clothes, and I thanked God for these two young women. They are beautiful, smart, full of life and bring such joy into mine. It was just yesterday—wasn’t it?—they were swinging in a backyard hammock with their baby dolls and helping plant tulip bulbs in our front yard with their pudgy toddler fingers. Now here we were sharing happy hours and planning a wedding. I admit my eyes filled with tears, and one dripped off my cheek, creating another wet spot on my linen skirt.
I told Drew I was having a surprisingly tough time deciding what to say in this column, and she and Lu started reminiscing about some of their favorite ones…the time we helped the lost little boy at Silver Dollar City find his family, the time she lost her first tooth and the tooth fairy left an IOU (seriously), the time we were driving to the beach and my car keys got flushed down the toilet at a McDonald’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (WHOOSH! People still come up to me and remind me of this one).
You see, these 60 or so columns were—are—effectively an extension of Drew’s baby book. I am forever grateful that I have them (now preserved in a 3-ring binder and on a disk). New moms, if you are reading, WRITE THIS STUFF DOWN! It’s frightening what we forget.
My column was officially called Kidstuff, but I always called them “Drew stories.” By sharing her tales, I hope I shared some universal truths, too, for example: to savor the mundane as well as the extraordinary moments, and don’t be too hard on ourselves as parents—we will make mistakes and are not superhuman. Once, when I remarked to Drew that I was sorry she had seen me make certain mistakes, she replied, “I don’t see them as mistakes, Momma; I see them as lessons.”
Talking with her hands, waving a chip bound for a bowl of salsa, all of a sudden Drew exclaimed, “You know what those columns were, Momma?”
(Yes, she still calls me that. That is how she spells it, so I spell it that way, too.)
“They were love letters.”
Again, for emphasis: “They were love letters.”
So here we are 20 years later. I still have people ask about Drew because they “watched” her grow up in these pages. I’m happy to say she graduated from the College of Charleston where she had a terrific four years. She spent last year as a traveling consultant for her sorority and now is back in Little Rock as an Americorps member working for Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. She got her driver’s license at the age of 20! She’s a trivia buff, collects vinyl records and has turned into quite the bachelorette party planner.
A lot has stayed the same, too, such as Drew and Lu’s friendship, my pride in the person she is, and the pleasure I take in her company, maybe even more so now, as we learn to relate as adults. I still live in the house where I wrote my columns the last two years or so they ran. And this is funny: Drew is now living in the small garage apartment of the house where we lived when I started writing the column in 1994! It’s all good. Life is good.
Oh, one more thing that’s stayed the same….that night at Buffalo Grill? I picked up the tab.
Kelly Ford is currently the Director of Development at the Arkansas Arts Center.