Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy Birthday, Matthew

Today’s your birthday. And so much of it comes back. That cold frosty snowy night in Danville, Virginia when you came into the world. Red-headed. Rambunctious. Squirmy Lovable. You always said we didn’t have any pictures of you since you were our second child—you were wrong.

Everywhere we went people talked about Matthew. Remember, someone said, when you put that cape on and ran around the church like Superman. Remember driving your Big Wheels under a slowly moving car—that was scary. Remember when your Daddy smoked a pipe and you wanted me to breathe smoke into a bottle as you yelled: “Jeannie in a bottle.” Remember your loving Ernest Angley and thought he was on a comedy channel. Remember moving to Clemson and driving down the main street for the first time and wondering: “Where’s the town?” And I said, “You just saw it.” 

 Remember how proud you were with the Clemson move because the church had “nailed-down seats.” Remember your being very impressed with the church’s sound system and leaving me a note on the pulpit that read, as I stood up to preach: “Daddy, tell everybody I love you over the microphone.” Remember that Christmas Eve service when you set fire to the church bulletin during the lighting of the candles. Remember the Birthday you gave your Mama a card with a picture of a snowman on front that said: “To my God-father at Christmas.” Remember your baptism that night with Paul Caffrey and Matt Maddox in the swimming pool because somebody forgot to fill up the church’s baptistery.
Remember the banners you helped create that still hang in the Clemson sanctuary every Christmas. Remember Brenda and Liz and Art and Governor’s School and the North Carolina School of the Arts. Remember the Art Institute in Chicago and how we hauled your treasures up to that terrible apartment on the Church van?

Remember working hard at Ann Sathers Restaurant. Remember being selected to spend that summer at Yale where you really discovered photography. Remember writing us and saying you met a guy named Mark. Remember finishing college and working at Habitat and meeting Jimmy Carter and him calling you: “Mat-chew.” Remember the glorious paintings you did and the one especially of your Grandmother. She said: “It makes me look like an old woman.” Remember the painting you did of your Mama’s and later your sister’s house on Tenny Avenue?

Remember your hard struggles with trying to figure out who you were and the letter you wrote us in Memphis? Remember returning to Chicago and Mark and a whole new life. Remember Tony Stone and being in charge of their Getty photograph collection. Remember your Bed and Breakfast with Mark and Carolyn and how you helped put it on the map. Remember leaving that job to become first a consultant for B and B’s and then becoming a photographer for B and B’s and traveling all over.  Remember we never ever knew where you were.

Remember my 70th Birthday when you and Mark gave Gayle and me plane tickets to Italy—and said: “We’re going with you and you did: to Rome and Florence and Venice. Remember moving to Philadelphia and redoing your old row house on Catharine Street.

Remember your two wild semi-feral cats. And trips you all took to so many places that it makes me dizzy. Especially the last one to the Amazon where the woman running the place casually said there was a Tarantula bed under the bedroom you slept in—and as an aside saying the bats that fly in your room at night won’t hurt you.

But my favorite memory may be that morning  by the fireplace where, after 25 years—you pledged your love in marriage to Mark. And the next day when we drove way up in the mountains and fifty people from all over came together for two fun days to celebrate your 25 years as partners.
You and your sister have graced our lives and we don’t know what we would do without you. Thanks for being “borned” that cold, snowy night in Virginia and helped to make these years as special as they have been.

Happy Birthday, Matthew. We love you. Daddy and Mama.


1 comment:

  1. Roger, this is a dear and endearing public birthday card for Matt. I remember seeing him as a young-to-mid teen when Pansy and I used to visit Clemson FBC. Then Matt and our older son Russell were in the South Carolina Summer Governor's School the same year when it met at Furman. Your roll call of memories show your tender love for your son as he has blessed your life.