My mother recently made her first trip back to the Lone Star State since she helped me move down here nearly a year ago to start my job.
She was in town to help celebrate the sportswriter of the year award I was presented by the Texas Girls Coaches Association and luckily enough was able to live stream it, so we have the speech forever. That was the final piece of the puzzle that was an awesome weekend and made coming into work that following Wednesday a little more difficult only because of the good times we had.
She flew in the Saturday before my award and the Italian chef got right to work in my kitchen, stockpiling my fridge with eggplant rollatini, chicken parm, and pounds of pasta sauce.
We went and had dinner with a former coworker of hers who resides in Houston that night before the eye-opening experience we had Sunday morning.
I remember watching Joel Osteen preach on the television while visiting my Nonna and my mom really wanted to go to Lakewood Church on her first trip down, but the timing didn’t quite work out. This time it did and what a time it was.
As soon as we got there, my mom went up to one of the greeters announcing it was our first time there and that we were from the faraway state of Massachusetts and the man we met was our neighbor from New York, and the connections only grew from there.
He directed us to another greeter, Chad, who led us to our seats on the floor level of an arena that used to host the Houston Rockets but now holds four services each weekend with television cameras covering nearly every square inch of the facility.
It was on the way to our seats that Chad asked me if I was down here for school or work and I noted that I’m working for The Sealy News and he stopped a moment and confirmed it was in the town of Sealy, where, of course, he was from.
He mentioned his time coincided with Ricky Seals-Jones, the current Arizona Cardinal wide receiver and asked how the football and baseball (the sport he played) programs did that year and I was happy to report both went three rounds deep into the playoffs.
Soon enough it was time to say farewell to my new Tiger friend and my mother and I were immediately in awe of where we were. The lights, the stage, the crowd filling in every section all the way to the roof; and that was before anyone even touched the main stage.
Soon enough the music started, and the singers and musicians filled the stage and it truly felt like a concert.
It was incredible.
I couldn’t help but sway along and clap to the beat and was honestly moved to some tears in the sheer presence of the arena and that was even before the actual sermon was delivered.
Although it wasn’t the guy I had seen on TV, Joyce Meyer took the stage and delivered a beautiful message that, of course, struck a chord with me and left me with a lasting impression that God was truly with me that day and every other day.
We were also able to take advantage of the prayer team who helped us with some more encouraging words for our family and traveling mercies for our endeavor the next day.
That Monday we hit the road a little before 9 a.m. set for a quick stop in Waco to see another former coworker of my mom’s who showed us around town a little bit and the girls shopped until they dropped while I sat on a comfy chair in the A/C away from the heat.
From there, the Hilton Arlington was our destination and we settled into our room with just enough time to get ready and head back downstairs for the ceremonies.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around sharing a room with some of those legendary coaches as well as Branden Ogden, the Division I Sportswriter of the Year from the Tyler Morning Telegram, not even a full year into my first job.
I was so grateful my mom was able to be there with me, and that I didn’t quite move her all the way to tears while she was filming (her helping me polish the speech the night before probably helped) and celebrate with a drink at the bar afterward.
While we were sitting there, some people across the way got ahold of one of the programs and were flipping through before they saw my face and beard and looked up to find “That’s that guy!” I signed my first autograph right below my bio and that was probably the best endcap to one of the cooler days of my life so far.
It was a tough see-you-later but my return trip home just two weeks after that made it a little easier and will continue the celebrations that much further.
I said in my speech (which you can see in full on our Facebook page) that I can’t thank The Sealy News team enough for welcoming me in with such open arms as the entire community has, and allowed me to chronicle the happenings in the sports and education realm of Sealy, America.
I couldn’t have done it without the support from all the readers and subscribers and fans and parents and, of course, my family and support system.
Thank you for letting me take up these four pages every week, and like Bellville volleyball coach Susan Brewer put it in her award acceptance speech, “The best is yet to come!”