Dear Shepherd: 4 Years


Your passport says you’re American, but you didn’t step foot in the U.S. until the fifth month of your third year. When we arrived at our apartment in Georgia, you gasped & let out an ardent OH MY GOODNESS! over the awaiting half dozen toys in your room. Your appreciative outlook on life had Papa in tears, but we were all swimming in your feels. With bellies full of McDonalds & gas station coffee, we settled our travel-weary bones into our beds for what was your first night ever in my hometown. You slept peacefully, not vexed by even the series of shotgun fires at 3am. But me? I sat up straight, clammy in that cloud of a bed, ears acute. Mamas & sojourners in at-war countries make the lightest of sleepers, of which I’m both. But in my sleep-deprived haze I remembered we were now in the foothills of Appalachia & reduced things down to a robber scare-off or an opossum execution. We woke only a few hours later to Daddy-made coffee, eggs, biscuits, bacon, & all the love that little kitchen could hold—finally sharing you again with KK, the only other one who’s known you your whole life, & Papa, the one you wrinkle your forehead like.

Watching you play with Snowbird friends & calling everyone “cousins” was & frankly is, still too much. We’ve worked so hard over your few years to help you sort out family relationships. But the best we could do from 3000 miles away was the occasional FaceTime call & showing you photos of family, asking, “who’s that? And where is Mommy’s brother?” You went through a phase in South Sudan where you would line up all the grandparents’ photos around your breakfast or take them all outside to climb our Land Cruiser. It seemed very Japanese, like honoring the dead, but we just went with it & wished everyone their due fun.

Life on the farm in Tennessee with Nammy & Grandaddy was a dream. Every day you would walk downstairs before 7am & ask Grandaddy, “what’s for lunch?” A highlight was post-supper rides on the pony & your reaction to coming back into the A/C every single time: “ooooh, that’s NICE!” You loved all your cousins instantly & called everyone Aunt Kathy there for a while. You were scared of Grandma right off but after I gave a few whisper-shouts-through-clenched-teeth YOU WILL HUG YOUR GRANDMOTHERs, you guys were super-pals. You would point to every white elderly woman in Wal-Mart or the post office or restaurants & overtly ask, “is that my Grandma?” Sure, son, because you’re new here. Also: automatic car washes are totally your jam & fine, I’ll share my $4 latte with you & ok, we’ll go through just one. more. time.

We’ve emigrated again, this time to Scotland. You packed your backpack with all your essential toys but you refused to carry it. You’re irresistible when you say “Edinburgh.” You go to nursery school 2 days a week & always report that you “didn’t” hit your friends. You talk about a boy called Joshua, & I’m pretty sure he’s the one you “didn’t” hit. You love Kinder surprise eggs (but only the ones with super heroes inside OH MY GOSH), getting pizza & meeting Daddy at the park, picking out a snack at soft play, sitting upstairs on the bus, helping me cook your 2 eggs every morning, & watching play-doh shows on YouTube SO HELP ME GOD. You don’t love swim lessons or your yoga class at school just yet but it’s too early to declare that you’ve inherited the exercise-aversion gene (from your father’s side, if anyone asks).

Sad to see you graduate to giving an actual thumbs up instead of pointing your index fingers, but turning four does means that you’re “really really BIG tiny” now.

We live our lives on the pendulum swing but you always keep in rhythm. Please keep saying “toast” with a Scottish accent, asking everyone if they’re ok after they cough, & offering Roscoe “some cup of tea.” Looooove, eye, looooove, YOU!

Two days early this year,


5 responses to “Dear Shepherd: 4 Years

  1. Maridith,
    I love reading anything you write! You have a gift to pull out the extraordinary and an eye of an appreciative American that doesn’t take little things for granted. Your words draw me in and I want to hear more.
    I hope you are enjoying your time in Scotland. Keep enjoying your rare “me” times. Our kids grow up faster than we can ever imagine.
    And, yep, we really are cousins. I think 2nd.
    I love your little family. May God continue to bless you all. He will!
    Your cuz, Kristi

  2. That is beautiful, Maridith! Shep has a most interesting life and world outlook and a terrific Mom to document so much for him. I’m signing in with my new email address and new (got married in February!) name (used to be Griffin). Love you and pray for you and your family. Judy

  3. You keep them grounded Maridith. Keep up the good work!

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