I used my most recent trip to Charleston as an opportunity to surprise my childhood best friend Danielle's daughter Karson at school. Her third grade class' study of South Carolina history concluded with "South Carolina Day" which included a singing performance of some of the state's biggest hits.
Karson is one of the few people I have known for her entire life. I was at the hospital when she was born and have had the privilege of watching her grow up to be a pretty cool kid. I wasn't physically present when she started walking and talking or on her first day of school, but her mom keeps me in the know of her latest milestones and I'm always amazed.
I feel blessed to know her so well.
Cliche though it may be, watching Karson and her classmates performing, "Nothing Could be Finer Than to Be in Carolina," was just a reminder of how old she's getting. Not that I needed reminding. The baby that I once knew is now a little person and it completely freaks me out. I can't imagine how her mother feels.
After her performance was over, we decided to go for ice cream. Karson requested to ride in my car - a request that evoked equal parts delight and fear - I love that she thinks I'm as cool as Lady Gaga, but since no one ever rides in my car, I was worried about what she might find in my backseat.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, Karson took a look around at all of the other students leaving and said, "Looks like everybody's busting out of here early. I don't blame them! Let's move."
I laughed at her remarks. She laughed at me.
Karson promised to give me directions to the ice cream parlor and when I arrived at a stop sign I said, "Ok, which way?"
"Left," she said, and I started to lift my foot off the brake.
"No. Right!," she shouted, giggling.
"I mean, straight!"
I pressed the brake and turned around, to find Karson in the back seat, hands over mouth trying to contain her laughter.
"Kidding . . .kidding," she said sarcastically, lifting her hand and waving like an old lady denying a compliment.
Another milestone. My favorite so far.
The girl is funny. Really funny.
Later that day, Danielle told me she's ready for me to, "Get married, settle down and move back to Charleston." Her demands are nothing new - she has been saying this to me for a while. Never to be outdone, Karson overheard our conversation and said, while hula-hooping, "Stay single! Enjoy your life!"
Did I mention she's NINE years old?
I suppose Karson's ability to make me laugh shouldn't come as a surprise - her mother has been making me laugh for years.
But for some reason, her affinity for sarcasm and practical jokes has surprised me more than any of her other milestones. I knew she'd walk and talk - but funny? Funny wasn't guaranteed. But she is. My heart is full.
Thanks to our strawberry blonde hair and freckled skin, when people see us together they assume that she's mine. I couldn't be prouder if she was.