Saturday, May 03, 2003

I’ll always remember the very first time I saw her name in print. “Kelli Sue Woods.” It was written on the little pink card affixed to her clear bassinet at Hinsdale Hospital in Hinsdale, Illinois. She was not yet twelve hours old. Kelli was one of those kids that like to keep you up late at night. The night of her birth was the first time she pulled that trick, making her introduction at 12:08am on September 9, 1980. It was well after 3:00am before I hit the sheets. And then I was back at that little window staring into the hospital nursery just a few hours later, reading that card. “Kelli Sue Woods.” As we left the hospital a couple of day later they gave us her tiny arm bracelet with her name on it and, of course, a copy of her birth certificate came in the mail a short time later. All of them carried the same brand… “Kelli Sue Woods.”
When she was about three we took her to Central Hardware to get her fingerprinted. They were doing one of those special “don’t let your kid get stolen” emphasis. Some elderly lady sat behind a folding table, rolled her little hand on the ink pad, and pressed each finger gently onto a piece of paper. There! Now she is safe from the world and all of its evils. If somebody kidnaps her we’ll be able to show the police what her fingerprints look like. And then all we’ll have to do is check the fingerprints of every blond haired, blue eyed, kid in America to find the one that matches. Then we’ll have our Kelli back. Somehow I think they were hoping we would buy a wrench or something before we left the store.
I remember some year later as she came home from school and proudly showed me her Social Security card. Social Security? She was maybe… I don’t know… seven? But sure enough there was her name all typed neatly in and signed in ink underneath. “Kelli Sue Woods.” This little bundle of energy and cuteness was now officially backed by all of the authority and power of the United States of America! Impressive!
High school came around all too soon. With it came a driver’s license. Ugh. She and I went out in frequent spins around the neighborhood. One of those drives accidentally ended up in Jerry Edmonds front yard. That’s another story for another day. She drove and I prayed. We got through it. A short time later a crazy man at the Drivers License Bureau gave her a laminated card with her picture and name on it. “Kelli Sue Woods.” She was now an officially sanctioned driver in the state of Illinois. Who came up with this system? She was just a kid. Barely a kid! And now she was a kid driving my car.
On graduation day they called her name from the stage, formally proclaiming “Kelli Sue Woods” as a graduate of Civic Memorial High School. I was a little fogged and shocked on that day. My wallet was twitching under me… sensing something huge was about to happen. That something was called… college. Kel started out tamely and ended up like a lion. One and one half years at Lewis and Clark Community College flew by. Then came the transfer… the dreaded transfer… to Greenville College. I had nothing against Greenville. It was just that she wanted to LIVE there. This was totally unacceptable! And yet her mother took her and they moved her into a sleazy little dorm room. Every month I got a bill for the tuition of “Kelli Sue Woods.” She finished college like she finished high school, walking across an over-sized stage to receive a diploma declaring “Kelli Sue Woods” as a graduate of Greenville College with a major in education.
And then just as quickly as she came into being… she ceased to exist. It took Debbie’s mother nine months to make her. I’m not certain exactly how long she was engaged to Mr. Joseph McGill. Maybe it was nine months. Maybe it was longer. But I am absolutely sure it was on their minds for much longer than that. January 11, 2003 found her standing on a stage again. This time she was there with pen in hand, signing “Kelli Sue Woods” for the last time. When she put the pen down I uttered some magic words and turned her into Kelli Sue McGill. One second she’s Woods and the next second… POOF…she’s McGill. She probably never realized it but I was always working magic in her life. Whether it was helping her mother get her started, Loaning her the name “Kelli” (my middle name is Kelly,) letting her make her first road-kill in my car, (a former skunk and now merely a horrifying, crippling, odor,) or baptizing her into her faith and signing her certificate, I really tried my best to make Miss Kelli Sue Woods all that God wanted her to be.
About two weeks ago I finally got use to her being Mrs. Joseph McGill. It took awhile. The dainty smell of cosmetics and girly stuff in her room has been replaced by Scott’s gym socks. That will drive reality home in a heart beat. And then yesterday the most wonderful thing happened. Something good actually came out of the Alton telegraph. Yesterday I saw for what I am certain is the very last time the name “Kelli Sue Woods” in official print. Her former name was in the paper declaring her a “Greenville Scholar” because she had made the deans list at least three times.
Wow. My Kelli. She was gone for more than three months and then she dropped by, quite unexpectedly, to visit. There she is, for the entire world to see. Kelli Sue Woods is a scholar! I never doubted it.
You know how when they build a new ship the navy takes her out for a “shake down cruise?” They go out and sail around the high seas for a while, never getting too far from home, just to make sure all systems are functioning well. Then they drop back by home one more time and then it’s off to see the world. Well… that was my yesterday. Kelli Sue McGill has completed her “shake down cruise.” She dropped back by the old shipyard yesterday, appearing in the newspaper as Kelli Sue Woods, just to let us know that all is well. And then she sailed back out into the world. And hey, it’s ok! She’s ready for whatever comes her way! Because my little Kelli… she’s a scholar…