When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
~Victor Frankl ~
I first met Chic earlier this year. My youngest, Grace, introduced us. Grace’s BFF’s parents tutor at Starbucks and I was dropping said BFF off after a playdate. Grace was so excited for me to meet her new buddy Chic and later asked me in secret if that was really his name. I told her that I didn’t think so and he probably doesn’t want anyone to know his real name. I was wrong, he is Chic and he holds a fascinating story.
The first thing that I loved about meeting my new friend was that he held a genuine smile. A smile that was not false, a smile that came from within, a smile that spread to others. Smiles are contagious.
He told me how he had written a book and it was about to be published. Cool. But then he told me about this book. I have always said, things happen for a reason, people are put in front of you for a reason and follow your heart.
The book: Molly the Manatee, my oldest first name, Molly, and I have been fascinated with the Manatee for many many years.
The story: A manatee’s quest for self-discovery. Molly’s adventure leads her away from her family along waterways and seaways. She interacts with all sorts of animals and eventually, she meets a wise fishing captain that helps her understand her true identity.
Over many visits for our after school “Chic Specials”, I got to know Chic better and we shared stories about one another in passing. We are far apart in age, but have a lot in common. Both from Charlotte, both attended ECU, both had connections with the Phil Hughston story.
One afternoon Grace became a little impatient while we conversed and declared to Chic, “My Mom is an artist!” He got a twinkle in his eye and proceeded to tell me about his next book about a flamingo. A flamingo, the favorite bird of my favorite 5 year old, Evie. Evie has had flamingo themed birthday parties for the past 2 years and last year I even painted Evie a flamingo to hang in her room, but I do not consider myself an “artist”. Chic wanted to see some of my work, and after a few weeks of his hounding I shared. That is how our story started……
Smarty Dad: Chic Cariaga
Married to: Divorced (13 years)
Child(ren): Colton 26 and Grayson 30
Years in Charlotte: 57
Hood: South Charlotte (I actually live in SC now)
Occupation: Author / Coffee Shop Guru
Wake up/make bed/make coffee/write a poem/write whatever project/wash/rinse/repeat. I am currently working on 4 children’s books/book of poetry/ 3 short story books/a children’s book series (based in South Charlotte)/ an inspirational book/two coffee table books (photography/art)
Where can you buy Molly the Manatee?
Toys & Co. is holding a “meet the author and illustrator” event soon. (We will keep you up to date so you can go meet my friend Chic and get a signed copy of Molly the Manatee)
What do you like to do for fun/leisure?
Travel, photography, hike, go to sporting events with my son’s, cook
Favorite activity to do with your family/kids?
Sit and talk about life, sports, philosophy, and make each other laugh.
Any Charlotte history to share?
I broke my neck playing football in 1972. It was the year after Phil Hughston’s similar football injury except he passed away.
Something most people don’t know about you?
I went to ECU to become an actor and left for years later with a Urban Planning degree and stepped into my life as a salesman.
I could not live without….
Water, air, food, family, friends, and faith.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
~ Henry David Thoreau~
(This is an excerpt from one of his writings, the last paragraph is powerful.)
In 1978 I was home from East Carolina University on spring break. My mom, Jane, had a place on her leg that she refused to have a doctor attend. I went with mom to go see Dr. Hicks one afternoon. I really had nothing wrong with me, but I made up the ruse to get mom in front of a doctor. We arrived and Dr. Hicks came into the room asking how everything was going in my life. We had a little small talk and he looked at mom and asked how she was, she gave the obligatory “fine” answer and I stepped in and insisted, “Show him mom.”
“Show me what? Doctor Hicks replied.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Chic seems to think there’s something wrong with this place on my leg,” Mom said as she hiked up her skirt to just above her right knee revealing a discolored spot on her leg about the size of a half dollar. A look of concern came over Dr. Hick’s face. He immediately rose from his chair and stated, “Wait here”. He left the room. I gave my mother a, “See, I told you so look.” She acknowledged it with a pensive look of her own.
Within a few minutes Dr. Hicks returned with Dr. Hipp (Dr. Hipp was the son of the Dr. Hipp that had stitched me up at least 5 times between the ages of 5 and 12.) His look was all that we needed to be told. He biopsied mom’s leg and found melanoma skin cancer. They operated to remove her right leg upper muscle mass as well as her lymph nodes. According to Dr. Hipp and her Oncologist, Dr. Geysinger, if my mother had waited another six months her cancer would have enveloped her entire body and she would have passed away. Mom passed away November 2013; sadly she had dementia and was unable to remember much at the end. But she was able to welcome 10 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren into this world. In some weird cosmic way or as what a friend calls a “Godcidence” my injury saved my mother’s life. The cycle of life completed.
My dad is still my father, my mentor, my friend. He has been happily married to my other mother Joyce for over 30 years. He can still make you laugh with a corny joke, a pun or a quip. His laughter is contagious. Dad gave me a lifelong obsession with the St. Louis Cardinals. They are my team and St. Louis is my second home. When I was going through my own divorce in 2003 dad and Joyce were stalwarts in my life. I thought to myself, “I have never heard my dad tell me that he loved me.” Instead of dwelling on this and becoming upset about a perceived slight, I decided I would tell him, “I love you.” Old school men were never supposed to outwardly say such things (he was the son of an immigrant father). I tell him “I love you” every time we say goodbye. Now Dad and Joyce always tell me too. I also say this to my other family members, my coworkers, and especially my friends.
I know now that this stems from all the kindness shown to me back in 1972, so if you hear me say, “I love you” please don’t take offense, it is just my way of saying, “Thank you, you are appreciated, and you have made a difference in my life”. I believe the world could use a little more “I love you” in it.