Ashley Fay is eleven today. I met her when she was three years old. Her daddy and grandparents had taken her to Chuck-E-Cheese to celebrate her upcoming 4th birthday. She was cute as a button with an Auburn Cheerleader Outfit on. Right away, we were best friends. We played ski ball and earned a lot of tickets. She was a very shy little girl, but she was never shy with me. It was before Mikey T and I were all that serious and he didn't let any "new" girlfriends around Ashley. He was very protective and I was honored that he "let" me meet her.
My favorite picture of Ashley is from that trip. She was hiding from me under the kitchen table at my then-future-in-laws house and I would just stick the camera under that table and hit the button. The picture is kind of crooked and she is laughing so hard her eyes are squeezed shut. I love it.
When she was just shy of seven she was one of two people in my wedding party. She wore a dress that I wore when I was a young flower girls and she had grown her hair just long enough to put in wrap braids around her head. She wore a flower wreath and she looked beautiful. She was shy and since we had no rehearsal she was a little overwhelmed at the ceremony. I have a large---very large---family and they can be a little intimidating. Mikey T and I had our first dance and then he danced with his little girl to "My girl." It wasn't the conventional "father-daughter" dance at a wedding, but, it was the sweetest moment of the night. By the end of the reception party, she was dancing and singing and having a blast. The next day when we left for the honeymoon, she ran along side the car as we pulled away shouting "I love you!!"
She is the most talented eleven year old I have ever met. I know I talk about it, a lot, but she dances like no 6th grader should. She has poise and grace well beyond her years.
She is the best big sister, period. I remember the day after Christmas when she and her daddy walked in from the airport. She was 8. She walked right in, sat in the chair and wanted to hold her little sister (a month old). Right then my heart melted and I knew Emma Kate would always have a big sister that would protect her and love her and grow with her.
Ashley is resilient. She has had to go through a lot that most children don't have to go through. I understand some of it, because my parents divorced at an early age as well. The world has thrown her a lot of stuff in these eleven years, but she it is like she is protected by a rubber force field. It bounces off of her and she remains the sweet, kind-hearted, spirited, funny, lovable Young lady that she has always been.
Ashley is not my blood. She has a mother and I do not pretend or try to be her mother. But she and I have a special bond. STEPmother may have a negative connotation to it, but I love that title. To me, that tells the world that I CHOSE her. I CHOSE to become a part of her life and I CHOSE to have her in mine. And now, after all these years, I cannot imagine my life without her.
Happy Birthday, Ashley Fay!