The sun burned brightly as I crossed the South of the Border, an imaginary line that signifies the barrier between North and South Carolina. My mind wandered to the thought that humans came to this Earth and marked off territories, even the sky and higher atmospheres weren't off limits. On I-95S, windows down, music blaring, I reached my arm to the sky heading down familiar roads.
I set cruise to nine over, hoping that one mile per hour will be enough to deter any police from pulling me over. There is a saying, like a nursery rhyme, that goes with it but it always escapes me.
Excitement circulated my body as the realization of a new chapter was settling in. Two years ago, almost exactly to date, was the last time I seen Amelia. Although I was elated, anxiety came in waves as well. What if she doesn't want to spend time with me? Will she cry instead of come to me? I was fearful of all the possibilities especially a scenario where her mother reneged forcing me to turn around empty handed.
An incessant cycle, one that, without much hope I still pray it has finally ceased. The border tells me that I have roughly two hours left, I turned cruise on and off to accommodate the speed limit. On I-26E I took in the difference in traffic patterns, one that hadn't changed was the overwhelming construction.
I contacted Amelia's mother to let her know how far out I was, but of course, she still was. Waiting in the mall parking lot I glanced in the rear view every few seconds while trying to be patient and pay attention to my book. My first reaction was to get angry at her continuous nonchalant behavior when it came to me being with Amelia. God reminded me that I waited this long I could wait another 30 minutes.
Trepidation reached it's height when I received the call to ask where I was and seeing her car park in front of me. I threw the book down and immediately opened my door, I had so many emotions coursing through me that I struggled to find my equilibrium.
As I reached Amelia's door I could see her fidgeting with her car seat trying to free herself to get to me, her bodily language read excited. Calling me daddy she got out the car and hopped into my arms, the love was genuine. The feeling was inexplicable, I almost couldn't believe I was holding my baby again. What was even harder to fathom was that I am a father to a five year old.
I immediately noticed her long legs and arms, I knew she was going to be tall as a baby but now I could see it come true. God promised me that he would restore time and the embrace that my daughter gave me let me know the truth in His word. I asked her if she wants to spend the day with me and she readily agreed and said her farewells to her mother, sister, and aunt.
Sine her birthday was the weekend before I took her shopping at Belk as the first option, there was a unprecedented sale that I'm glad I stumbled upon. There was an obvious uncertainty, from both of us, I wasn't sure how to spark a conversation and I bet she was weary of not being around her mother. I did most of the talking at first, asking questions trying to learn about my baby our of her own mouth.
While we were in the store I caught Amelia staring at me, when I caught her eye I smiled at her through my mask and she reached up for a hug telling me that she loved me. An unforgettable moment, what made it even better was the fast and hard thumping of my babies heart as the emotions ran through her mind as well.
I got the notion that she was in awe to be with me, that she had been looking forward to it, that she had missed her daddy. I gave her a piggy back ride walking fast to make her laugh, we skipped down the aisles, and I added a melody of how happy I was to be with her.
We went to the food court next and she got a slice of cheese pizza and a drink. I stared at her while she ate, taking in all of her tendencies and learning to understand how she speaks. She stared at the indoor play area so I let her run around for almost an hour. She quickly made a couple friends that followed her around the entire time, I couldn't tell if it annoyed her or not, she kept looking at me to make sure I was watching.
I made sure to get plenty of pictures, I wanted to stay in this moment forever. After we went to a couple more stores to get her some more gifts then we went to Walmart before we checked in at the hotel. Amelia told me that she was hungry so we grabbed Japanese food and brought it back to where we were sleeping. We cuddled and watched a movie while she played with her toy boom box that she picked out as a gift.
Accidentally, I fell asleep on her while a pony movie was playing and I woke up to the TV being black and Amelia staring at me. It wasn't hard to notice the tears welling up in her eyes and the uncertainty of being in a new space. She cried for her mother but still let me rock her until she fell asleep.
I thought about how it could've been much worse, she could've fought me and cried the rest of the night until she got her way. Thankfully she didn't.
The next day we grabbed breakfast and I took her to The Citadel so that she could see "daddy's school." Luckily, we walked in on an inner squad basketball scrimmage so I got to see my former coach and all the new players as well. Amelia watched the game with me, and was good sitting by herself when I went to go talk to the coaches wife and coach himself.
At half time I took her to the weight room, the battalion, as well as the second and third floors of the field house. The third floor provides an aerial view of the basketball court and we finished watching the game from up there. She was moderately interested, asking who was winning and inquiring about the jumbotron and the shot clock.
By now, she was talking my head off comfortable being around me and telling me all the things that run through a five year old's mind. She talked about her sister, her cousins, she kept telling me her last name, I was engrossed in our conversations. She proceeded to tell me that this was the best day she had ever had.
I could've cried.
The fear coming into the weekend was completely eradicated after that statement, my confidence as a father skyrocketed. We spent the rest of the day together until mid afternoon when I had to take her back to her mother. I dropped her off at Sam's club and she begged me to stay, my heart melted at Amelia not fully understanding our situation.
I wished I could stay too.
We had court Tuesday and I was scheduled to get her back the weekend after. When it was my weekend, we met halfway and of course she was late again. After the two hour drive back to my parents house Amelia was happy to see everyone. She claimed that she remembered everybody and gave out plenty of hugs and love. We all enjoyed her presence, it had been a long time coming.
I took her to work with me and she had fun kicking around the soccer ball and running the empty fields with kids. One time she got mad at me because I was moving too slow, I found myself hitting a slight jog just to appease her. After we went roller skating which didn't last but 20 minutes since she quit after she fell once. I tried hard not to laugh, but it really wasn't that great of an idea since I'm not good at skating either.
It was a weekend to remember, I'm happy that I have a court order in place now but not as happy that I had to go this route. Either way, this old chapter is over and it's time to move on to better things. A two year journey that made me a better man at the end of the day, I guess God really wanted me to learn the traits that I did for something for his glory down the road. I'm excited to see where it will take me.
It's finally over! I can't wait for Amelia and Amara to finally spend time with each other, they will the next time that she is over. Daddy loves you two, more than you would ever know.