That first day is one I remember as vividly as any moment in my life.
The eight years that have since passed have gone by in a blink. I've turned around, and they're gone. Life on fast forward.
But that first day, Oct. 14, 2008, is still fresh in my mind. Held there like a painting. That was the day my daughter, Charley, was born. It was the start of two lives, really. It was the beginning of her life, and the beginning of a new one for me. I think you know what I mean. There's your life before your first child arrives, then your life after.
I prefer the one after. The last eight years have been the best ones. Every day with your children is a new adventure, every moment a chance to pass on the good stuff that came before. And maybe even set right some of the things we got wrong when we were young.
The day she was born is still etched into my mind. Standing in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Self Regional, watching her breathe. She had arrived about five weeks early, and she was a tiny thing. Just tiny. You could hold her in one hand.
I remember my dad coming into the NICU and standing beside me, the two of us watching as each breath she took seemed like a chore. "I don't like that," my dad said about her laborious breathing. I didn't either.
But, she was in good hands. I said eight years ago, and will share again this morning, that the staff in Self's NICU was incredible during that time. They put our minds at ease, and helped Charley through any of the issues surrounding her early arrival. They got her off to a running start. I appreciated it then, but I'm even more thankful in hindsight.
On Friday, we marked her eighth birthday. Our baby isn't a baby anymore. And when I say "our" I'm referring not only to my wife and me, but also to you. Yes, you. Charley has grown up in the pages of this newspaper, in this weekly column. I can't tell you how many emails and letters and messages I've gotten from readers through the years asking or commenting about Charley. Many of them have never even met her. And yet they have followed her adventures here, and want to share stories of their own families. I've cherished every one of those stories.
As parents, we like to think we're the ones who are teaching our kids lessons, big and small. That they are learning from us. And they are. But they are teaching us lessons, too, and reminding us of things long forgotten.
For instance, I've learned that a certain level of peace can be found on a youth soccer field. You wouldn't think that would be the case, what with a bunch of 8-year-olds yelling and chasing a ball around on a patch of grass. And yet, one of the best remedies for a long day at work and fighting rush hour traffic is seeing the smile on a kid's face when she scores a goal or makes a big stop. Our team name this year is the Tornados, by the way. We're an insurance adjuster's worst nightmare.
I've learned what Shopkins are. Are you aware of Shopkins? More important, have you ever stepped on a Shopkin in the dark with bare feet? If you haven't, congratulations. If you have, chances are you might have let fly with a string of obscenities that would make Bobby Knight blush.
I've learned there is a pre-meal blessing that is sung to the tune of John Williams' iconic "Superman" score. ("Thank you God, for giving us bread..")
I've learned that no cereal makes a bigger mess than Fruity Pebbles. Sometimes I wonder if my daughter actually gets any in her mouth. I've swept and vacuumed up more Fruity Pebbles than seems humanly possible. A thousand years from now, when everything on the earth has been bulldozed and a whole new earth has been built back in its place, there will still be Fruity Pebbles between our couch cushions.
And I've been reminded that sneakers and flip-flops can be found just about anywhere in the house, except where they are supposed to be, especially if you're running late in the morning. That the most expensive toy in the world can be ignored in favor of a shoebox or a "fort" made from blankets and kitchen chairs. That Steven Spielberg's early movies still work like gangbusters. That Cap'n Crunch will do a number on the roof of your mouth. That Band-Aids can apparently cure anything. And that so many things that may have long ago lost their luster with adults -- like the old ferris wheel at a seaside amusement park or the mascot at a minor league baseball game or a baby alligator in an aquarium -- seem awfully wondrous to young eyes.
We should all look on the world with such eyes.
Chris Trainor is a contributing columnist for the Index-Journal. Contact him at ChrisTrainorSC@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisTrainorSC. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.