Back to the real reason that we're here....Kaylea and Shaquille. I met Kaylea shortly after I moved to Gainesville from South Georgia. I'm sure that she doesn't remember that meeting because she was just a toddler at the time. I work with her aunt at my "day job" so I've passed the years hearing lots of Kaylea stories because she was the first grandchild in the family and the apple of her aunt's eye!
She'd come into the office to see her Aunt Dena and she was always this sweet, shy little girl with these big pretty eyes and a precious smile! I'd try picking on her and her face would turn a bright shade of red! She'd giggle like we'd shared THE funniest joke in the world but she didn't do a lot of talking in those days.
Well, I'm sure that you can imagine my surprise when a few years had passed since I last saw her and the day that I went over to take these pictures, this beautiful young lady stepped into the room. The big, pretty eyes and bright smile hadn't changed over time but she certainly wasn't the little girl that I remembered. Somewhere during the span of a few years, Kaylea grew up!
Kaylea and her mother swapped a few snips here and there like teenagers and their mothers are required by law to do. But despite the occasional yip, you can tell that this family is filled with love for each other. I'd watch her mom and her grandmother helping her get ready and you could see the pride in their eyes mixed with just a tad of longing that she'd stay young just a little bit longer.
It was amusing to listen to her talking about the dance and how much fun it was going to be. She's got that youthful exuberance that people of my advanced age (ask my kids and they'll swear that I'm somewhere around 100) just don't have. Everything is exciting and the mood was contagious.
When Shaquille showed up to meet her, I had to give the boy props for being one brave soul! Kaylea's dad was in the front yard sharpening some type of weapon/garden tool and he was forced to brave all of these women that had somehow congregated out in the yard all on his own! His own mother, younger brother and grandmother came with him and it was obvious that the pride that they felt toward him was equal to what I mentioned about Kaylea's family earlier.
I loved when he told her how pretty she looked, almost as if he was a wee bit shy.
These are two genuinely good kids. I have to say that I admire them for marching to the beat of their own drum. It's easy to let people tell you how to live your life. You spend a lot of time trying to live up to what people expect out of you only to find that you weren't happy all along. I'm proud of the people who look beyond skin color and labels to see the heart of another human being. Will they be together 20 years from now? There's really no way to know. They are both young and life has a way of throwing curve balls at you sometimes. But, they've definitely gotten a head start on following their own path and I like that about them.
So, I'm thankful to say that the toddler that I knew is growing up into an adult that I really like and although I don't know Shaquille as well as I know Kaylea, you can just sense that this guys is going places. He's surrounded by a loving family and a girlfriend who seems to think that he hung the moon. It was a fun afternoon and I enjoyed every second of it!
Thank you Kaylea and Shaquille for letting me share your excitement with you. The pleasure truly was all mine!