Dear Dr. Jamie Leigh,
You didn’t think I would publicly embarrass Chris and let you off the hook, did you?
Despite all the planning and parties and preparations — and check-writing — it has just hit me this week that the day is upon us. You really are getting married. I guess I realized it when we were digging out pictures for the slideshow. What precious memories those photographs elicited.
I remember so well the day you were born — right in the middle of football season, of course. You took your time getting here. I missed four Georgia games thinking that you would certainly arrive if I dared drive to Athens for the afternoon. I didn’t want to miss your arrival and, thank the Lord I didn’t. I also offer thanks to God that I have missed very few moments of your life, and you have always made me so proud to be your daddy.
I remember holding you in my arms in the hospital and looking into those bright blue eyes and knowing that you would be a special person — a precious child of God — and you have been. So many pictures we pored over. There was the one of you in the Mary Lou Retton leotard — I went out and bought that as soon as we found out you were a girl named Jamie Leigh instead of a boy named Jamison Lee — while you were still in the hospital.
There was one of you sitting in the living room floor, wearing a red Georgia Bulldog midriff T-shirt and a red headband. You were holding your stuffed bulldog named “Dooley” and waving a red and black shaker. I think you were 9 months old — which is about when you started talking. Your first two words were “hey” and “Co-cola.” “Go Dawgs” wasn’t far behind.
There is a great shot of you entertaining the entire crowd in the Chinese Pavilion at Disney World. You were 2 and knew that every person in the room was watching you dance around and show off. There was also a picture of you standing up straight and tall, your hair in pigtails and a book bag on your back, headed off to the first day of school.
I remember the day in the first grade when we were eating supper and I asked you what you did in school and you said “nothing.” I called your teacher, Carol Gamble, on the phone and just chewed her out for letting you stay at school all day without doing anything. You were so mortified. She and I laughed about that as long as she was alive. You never, ever, ever claimed to have done nothing in school again. And what a great student you were.
Speaking of school, there was a great picture of you, as Becky Thatcher, kissing Daniel Golden, who was Tom Sawyer in the fifth grade play. Daniel got married this summer, too.
I loved the picture of you in a Minnie Pearl hat and a flour sack dress. Remember when I would go around dressed up in overalls as Deacon Homer Barlow and you were my little girl, Bobbie Jo? I played the straight man and gave you all of the punch lines. I loved hearing you sing, “When we all get to heaven.”
I also found a picture of you in the red raincoat you would wear when you and I would go to the Georgia games when mama was working weekends. I think you were 4 or 5. You would cover your head with the hood when I made you go into the men’s restroom with me.
The middle school years and high school years and college years were a blur as you grew from a precocious child into a beautiful and charming woman. I am in awe of all you have accomplished and all you have become. I appreciate the fact that so much of what I tried to teach you actually stuck. I love that you really got “Gone With the Wind” and understood, from the beginning, the complex character that was Katie Scarlett O’Hara.
I love that you read Pat Conroy and Nelson De Mille and appreciate the genius of each. I love that you have sense enough to be proud of your Southern heritage and that you have never once tried to hide that fact. I am proud that you appreciate the genius of Walt Disney’s creations and that you knew that one day your prince would come — and that you waited until he did.
You may not realize this, but since the day you were born I have prayed that you would find the right mate, the person that God has had in mind for you since the beginning of time. Now I pray that you will always treat Chris with the affection and respect he deserves as the head of your household and that you both will always make sure that Christ is the center of your marriage.
I can’t wait to walk you down the aisle. I know that you will be the most beautiful bride in the history of marriage, and I am thankful that God has let me hang around long enough to enjoy this moment. Words can’t describe the love I have for you and Jackson and Jenna.
Thank you, Jamie Leigh, for becoming the person you are.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.